Halifax were hoping not to finish The Qualifiers winless as they travelled to the promotion-chasing London Broncos on Saturday night in what would turn out to be an exciting game in Ealing.
Halifax welcomed pressure from the off though and two early penalties allowed London to move up the field with ease to threaten the Fax line.
The set of six ended with Brandon Moore being caught behind his own line and London were gifted a fourth consecutive attacking set. However two fantastic tackles for Steve Tyrer and Kieren Moss shut down the Broncos.
Halifax managed to win a repeat set of their own however after the ball was knocked down in the tackle by Kieran Dixon and Fax attacked the Broncos line.
It was the team who were bottom of The Qualifiers table who scored first though as Ben Kaye dived over from the ruck from just inches out of the way. The try was nearly disallowed though as Kaye scored through the legs of Chester Butler and could have been deemed offside but the try was awarded by the TMO. Tyrer converted for an early 6-0 lead for the away side.
With no pressure on Halifax in this game they could play free-slowing rugby and this paid off for the West Yorkshire side as Scott Murell kicked high, back across the grain of the defence and Steve Tyrer jumped higher than Ben Hellewell and landed over the try line to score the second try of the night. Tyrer converted his own kick and doubled their lead.
London aimed to cut the gap almost instantly though but Kieren Moss managed to get a hand to the high kick and knock it into touch as London got a fresh set of six. With the first play of the set, it was Jarrod Sammut who took advantage. The Maltese half-back stepped back inside of his left foot and outpaced the Halifax defenders to score under the posts. Sammut converted his own try to bring the gap back to six.
London then scored their second try just moments later as Daniel Hindmarsh stormed though the Halifax defence to get within a metre of the Halifax line and Eloi Pelissier scored an identical try to Ben Kayes by diving over from the ruck. Sammut converted once more to level the scores after 24 minutes.
Halifax regained their lead before the half hour mark though as a more penalties from London meant that the away side marched up the pitch. Adam Tangata was the scorer as he brushed off Jay Pitts in the tackle and managed to get up and stretch to the line. Despite Gareth Hewer not thinking a try had been scored, TMO Robert Hicks awarded the try after viewing multiple angles. Tyrer missed from the tee this time as the entertaining first half continued.
The Broncos were unable to handle the Fax forwards upfront and they conceded yet another penalty late in the tackle count after Will Lovell stole the ball in the tackle and Halifax attempted to make the most of the easy territory again.
Scott Murrells kick on the last landed straight into the arms of Rhys Williams and London came away unscathed.
London were given the chance to get out of their own half after Halifax were caught on the last 30 metres from the Broncos line. However Tom Spencer knocked the ball on with the restart.
Pelissier was then penalised for interference and Halifax reset just 10 metres out front the try-line, the resulting play came to nothing after a knock-on.
London broke down the left hand edge through Williams and Halifax seemed out sorts as they were forced to concede a goal line drop out after Scott Murrell was tackled in the in-goal area.
With the half drawing to a close both sides stepped up their efforts in both attack and defence as Ben Heaton and company closed London down well as he caught a high Sammut kick in his own in-goal to win a 20-metre restart.
The Halifax attacking set was the last of the half as Gareth Hewer blew the half-time whistle.
Half-Time: London Broncos 12-16 Halifax
London started the second half with some aggressive tackles as they managed to trap Halifax inside their own 30 metre line and then Rhys Williams set up the Broncos near the try-line. The fifth tackle play nearly came off but the ball just didn’t quite bounce right for Kieron Dixon and Halifax withstood the lively start.
Scott Murrell managed to swing momentum back Halifax’s was though with a wonderful 40-20 but Steve Tyrer dropped the ball and London were lucky to escape.
James Woodburn-Hall was trapped in a tackle and badly injured his right leg as Halifax looked to escape their own half and the game was paused for a while for the full-back to be treated.
When the came did get back underway Halifax managed to push London back towards their own line in attack but also managed to shut the Broncos down in attack as the home side struggled to get the ball wide.
At this stage, London started to speed the game up at the play the ball but Halifax were able to match them in the tackle.
London pulled a try back just before the hour though as Jarrod Sammut chased his own kick, collected Dixons knockdown, offloaded magically from an inch off the floor back to Dixon and the speedy winger dived over in the corner to level the scores. Sammut put his conversion straight through the uprights and the Broncos took a narrow lead on the hour.
Halifax were given the chance to retake after winning a soft penalty but a sloppy fifth tackle play meant they turned the ball over just inside the London half.
This allowed the home side to take advantage of the weary Halifax side and Elliott Kear broke down the left hand edge and took on the defence to finish off a well-worked team try. Sammut missed the conversion and it was a six point gap with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Despite looking tired, Halifax were not rolling over and making it easy for London. However, as Jarrod Sammut knocked the ball on, Gareth Hewer turned and yellow carded Brandon Moore for dissent and Halifax would be with just twelve men on the field for the rest of the game.
Heading into the last few minutes, the physical nature of the game boiled over slightly as debutant Curtis Davies disagreed with the attention he received from Matty Gee off the ball and the play was paused for a slight moment as Gareth Hewer pulled the captains in for a chat.
London marched their way up the pitch though and were hoping to hold on to their spot in the Million Pound Game with just a minute remaining and just before the full-time hooter blew, Jarrod Sammut slotted a drop-goal for a seven-point victory and secure fifth place. The Broncos travel to either Toronto or Hull K.R next weekend for a place in Super League and Halifax looked forward to their off-season break.
Full-Time: London Broncos 23-16 Halifax
Sky Man of the Match: Jarrod Sammut – The London half-back was so influential for the Broncos as his kicking game and quick feet set a wonderful platform for the home side to attack off and secured their place in the Million Pound Game.
My Man of the Match: Scott Murrell – The Halifax man was brilliant with both ball in hand and with his kicking game as he seemed to casually strolled around the pitch dictation the tempo for Halifax as they made it tough task for London.
Walker, Dixon, Hellewell, Kear, Williams, Pitts, Sammut, Evans, Pelissier, Ioane, Hindmarsh, Gee, Battye.
Subs: Spencer, Lovell, Adebiyi, Davies
Tries: Sammut, Pelissier, Dixon, Kear
Goals: Sammut (3/4)
Woodburn-Hall, Moss, Tyrer, Heaton, Sharp, Murrell, Johnston, Fleming, Kaye, Fairbank, Tangata, Butler, Moore.
Subs: Curtis Davie, Connor Davies, Douglas, Cooper
Tries: Kaye, Tyrer, Tangata
Goals: Tyrer (2/3)