Halifax Panthers’ (20/1 Grand Final winner) fight to rejoin Super League continues at home to Dewsbury (500/1) on Tuesday night, with the Rams battling to keep their heads above water as they teeter precariously above the relegation zone.
With 12 of their 27 regular-season games played, Halifax sit fourth, seven points shy of leaders and last season’s Million Pound Game runners-up, Featherstone.
Rovers, who toppled the Panthers at the semi-final stage of last season’s playoffs, are yet to lose a league match this term and welcome off-form Newcastle Thunder to the Millennium Stadium on Thursday evening; as such, victory for Halifax in the midweek round’s opening fixture will leave them in third place for at least 48 hours, well poised to mount a challenge with fellow contenders Leigh Centurions and York City Knights facing tough trips to Barrow and Sheffield, respectively.
Fax’s convincing 24-40 win at the Knights last time out lends further credence to the belief that the Shay side are capable of threatening the Championship’s very best.
Having trailed at one stage by 18 points to 6, the Panthers showed steeliness in coping with a two-man reduction following back-to-back sin-bins, much to the delight of boss Simon Grix.
“Closing the gap is nice,” said the former Ireland international, who turned out for Warrington Wolves for a decade in Super League.
“This [win] will hopefully make us part of the group of teams that have something to hang on to, as opposed to the group who are chasing. It’s a really big win.”
Dewsbury’s form makes for a tale of contrasting fortunes. Their defeat a week last Sunday at the hands of Barrow, courtesy of a late Jarrad Stack try, was their third loss in succession – and a ninth from ten across all competitions.
“I think that was a missed opportunity,” said coach Lee Greenwood of the 18-20 defeat to the Raiders.
“If we’d had taken some of our chances at the crucial point in the game then we’d have won.”
His travelling side will be without full-back Aidan McGowan, who faces up to three months out with a knee injury sustained at Barrow, and prop Samy Kibula, who has returned to parent club Bradford Bulls following the conclusion of his short-term loan.
Fax remain without the services of long-term absentee Brad Knowles, with the forward recovering from a hip and hamstring injury.