Saints made the short trip over the Pennines to the picturesque Ovenden Park home of Fax Reserves to play the team who probably posed them the most problems last year, writes Graham Henthorne.
And it was the same again this year as the Saints ran up against a very physical and determined side providing exactly the sort of contest that the Reserves is all about.
The Saints started well and it took a humdinger of a tackle to stop the steamrolling Jonah Cunningham from charging under the sticks.
As it was the home side went straight up the other end and with a mixture of good fortune and skill their GB students stand-off James Woodburn-Hall collected the ball from a Saints rip out and fell over the line to score.
The Saints forwards despite being lighter than normal were playing very well rolling down field. Matty Costello’s first opened the Saints account as the Saints winger took Jack Ashworth’s overhead pass to step inside and touchdown
But then the wheels fell off as the Saints completion rate fell to below 30% which gifted Halifax position and possession and they took full advantage with two tries in a ten minutes spell.
The first came as left winger McGrath won the chase to touch down a Woodburn-Hall grubber. The second as the replacement prop Chalcott barged through some paper thin tackling on the line.
The Saints struck back straight away as Fax knocked on second tackle and only five metres from their goal line. Rob Fairclough was first to react and from the ply the ball Aaron Smith scored a trade mark try from dummy half under the black dot.
The team were positive at the break of being able to turn the game around but made the worst possible start allowing Fax to extend their lead with Woodburn-Hall again causing the damage stepping past the defence at the line.
With the sizeable crowd roaring their charges on Halifax were becoming more and more difficult to handle and just before the hour the scrum half dinked a one pointer over.
This seemed to finally bring the Saints to life and the final quarter belonged totally to the Saints.
The forwards started to get a roll on, the penalties began to come as a result and the home side started to crack.
Costello took Ricky Bailey’s miss pass to go in at the corner then some aggressive defence forced the error on second tackle. From the scrum quick hands right to left made the overlap and Jake Spedding took the space provided to touch down.
Crucially though both conversions from way out on the touchline were missed which left the Saints seven behind.
This meant that when Bailey took advantage of two successive penalties and some quick play the balls to step off his right to score by the sticks, Brad Billsborough’s conversion left the Saints still behind by a single point.
Fax just about managed to regroup and try as they might the Saints just couldn’t break through in the final ten to take the lead.
Whilst it’s never great to lose the Saints learned a few lessons that will stand them in good stead down the line.
There are many people in the game who think the Reserves serve no purpose. You try telling that to the 39 players and more than a hundred species who enjoyed a fine game on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Tries: James Woodburn-Hall (8 & 45), Conor McGrath (21), Will Chalcott (29).
Goals: Jordan Syme 4 from 4.
Drop Goals: Morgan Punchard 1 from 1.
Tries: Matty Costello (16 & 59), Aaron Smith (31), Jake Spedding (62), Ricky Bailey (64).
Goals: Brad Billsborough (1), Rob Fairclough (1)
Half Time: 18-10
Full Time: 25-24
1. Curtis Edwards-Hampson; 2. Jamie Stringer, 17. James Clare, 4. Chester Butler, 5. Conor McGrath; 6. James Woodburn-Hall, 7. Morgan Punchard; 17. Martyn Reilly, 9. Chris Cullimore, 10. Luke Nelmes, 11. Jordan Syme (C), 12. Zak Dewhirst, 13. Connor Davies.
Subs: 3. Jude Cross, 8. Fraser Morris, 15. Will Chalcott, 16. Aiden Hema, 18. Jack Etchells, 19. Kian Oldroyd, 20. Brad Allen, 23. Curtis Davies.
1. Ricky Bailey; 5. Matty Costello, 4. Calvin Wellington, 3. Jake Spedding, 2. Dave Eccleston; 6. Josh Eaves, 7. Rob Fairclough; 10. Matty Lees, 9. Tommy Lee (C), 13. Jonah Cunningham, 11. Liam Cooper, 12. Jack Ashworth, 19. Aaron Smith.
Subs: 8. Jordan Olmez, 14. Brad Billsborough, 15. Chris Follin, 16. Jorge Lewtas, 17. Mike Weldon.