The 2011 Northern Rail Cup got underway on Friday night with games at Salford and Featherstone.
Two of the competition’s fancied sides were in action and it took a try in the last couple of minutes by former Sheffield forward Sam Barlow to clinch victory for Halifax, who will be hoping to mount a serious challenge for this trophy for the first time.
Halifax made much the brighter start against their Championship One opponents and scored two tries in the first eight minutes by James Hayley and Paul White. Lee Paterson added one goal to open a 10-0 lead but Fax soon found themselves pegged back when 2010 top scorer Rob Foxen opened his account for the new season. When Dean Thompson was sinbinned for Swinton after 21 minutes, Halifax took advantage.
Rob Worrincy grabbed the visitors third try but Swinton replied strongly with two tries in the last three minutes of the half by new signings Mark Smith and Dean Thompson. Both were goaled by Gavin Dodd and the Lions led 16-14 at half-time.
It took fifteen minutes for Halifax to reply and Paterson scored the first of two tries and kicked his second goal. Once more Swinton responded brightly and when Neil Holland scored after 61 minutes, Dodd put his third goal over to make it 22-20 to Swinton with 19 minutes left.
Paterson got over for his brace five minutes later before Swinton lay seige to the Halifax line. Sadly for the hosts, playing their first competitive game as the home team at The Willows, they could not come up with the linebreaker and Barlows late heroics spared the Fax blushes and ensured a 28-22 win.
In the second game of the evening, Tony Butterfield gave Championship One Doncaster a superb start at the Bigfellas stadium and the Dons led 4-0 after two minutes. Rovers superiority began to show midway through the first quarter and by the time the 20th minute was on the board, Featherstone had turned a deficit into a 12 point advantage.
Andy Kain scored the first of two tries after 14 minutes and he was soon followed over the line by Tony Tonks and Sam Smeaton. Liam Finn, the orchestrator of so many of Rovers plays in 2010 popped up for his first try of the season after 34 minutes and with the scrum-half also landing three goals, Rovers led 22-4 at half-time.
Three Rovers tries in the first seven minutes of the second half by Smeaton, Ian Hardman and Kain ended the game as a contest and when Tommy Saxton went over on the hour, Featherstone led 40-4. Former Dewsbury hooker Mike Emmett then scored Doncaster’s second try of the night with Scott Spaven goaling to put the visitors into double figures.
This proved brief respite and when Andrew Bostock and Zak Hardacre scored, Finn brought up the fifty point mark with his fifth goal. There was still time for the lively Smeaton to claim the first hat-trick of the season as Rovers finished convincing 54-10 winners.