It was Rivals Round in Super League this week but the Championship rounded off tonight with a huge rivalry clash as Halifax Panthers and Bradford Bulls fought it out for the pride of West Yorkshire.
As well as being local pride on the line it was a battle between 5th and 7th with the winner solidifying their position in the playoff spots.
Both sides entered the matchup having recovered from a shock loss, Fax having avenged a league defeat to Barrow by beating them in the Cup whilst Bradford had battered League One opposition Midlands Hurricanes having been humiliated by Keighley a week prior.
Fax had won the previous four matchups but this fixture seemed far more balanced on paper and both teams entered with strong squads.
Australian winger Lachlan Walmsley returned from injury in a huge boost for the home side, whilst Bradford were boosted by the acquisition of Leeds Rhinos’ trio James Donaldson, Luis Roberts and Sam Walters.
MATCHDAY LIVE | LINE UP Here's how the Panthers will start tonight's Easter Monday Derby 🔵⚪️🐾
James Woodburn-Hall makes his 150th career appearance with Ryan Lannon making his debut from the bench. Lachlan Walmsley returns from injury to take his place on the wing #FAX150 pic.twitter.com/WcLjBnSHxQ
— Halifax Panthers 🐾 (@HalifaxPanthers) April 10, 2023
👥 LINE UP | Here is how we line up for this evening's clash with Halifax Panthers! pic.twitter.com/csUEV0SOaG
— Bradford Bulls (@OfficialBullsRL) April 10, 2023
It was the Bulls who started best as they pinned the Panthers in their own 20 and they used territory and repeat sets to open the scoring via one of their Rhinos’ dual reg men, Sam Walters getting on the end of a Dec Patton grubber kick five minutes in.
Halifax responded with their first real set with ball in hand and having pinned the Bulls in their own 20 capitalised through Brandon Moore who punched in from dummy half just metres out.
The following 15 minutes saw both sides trade sets before Bradford went ahead in the 25th minute via Jordan Baldwinson try. Sam Walters was involved again with his offload providing the crash ball for Baldwinson.
For the second time following a Bradford try it was Halifax piling pressure on themselves as Louis Jouffret again kicked out on the full, but they hit back on the scoreboard within five minutes.
The returning Lachlan Walmsley was put in my impressive centre Jake Maizen to score his 11th try of the season before Joe Keyes converted to level it up at 12-12.
After a sloppy number of sets from both sides the away side earned a penalty and opted for two which Dec Patton slotted over, but just two minutes later and on the verge of half time his kick was latched onto by Kieran Gill for another score.
Patton converted meaning the Bulls went into the half 20-12 up and having been best at capitalising on their opponent’s mistakes.
The second-half started at a frantic pace and whilst Halifax had the best of the territory of the first 15 minutes it was Bradford who came closer.
Despite that the score remained 20-12 but Halifax’s task of making up the deficit got harder just before the hour mark as Ben Kavanagh saw yellow for a swinging arm to the head of full-back Tom Holmes.
Even so it was Halifax who scored next courtesy of Italian international Jake Maizen who strolled in having caught winger Walmsley’s tap back off a high kick, but Keyes’ conversion attempt hit the post leaving the score 20-16.
Bradford did make the most of the man advantage and building on a set restart they were able to punish Fax with Dec Patton once again being the creator and his pump fake pass created the gap for Tom Holmes to crash through.
He then added the extras to extend the lead to 26-16 leaving the Panthers with all to do in the final 10 minutes.
Just as Bradford looked set to kill the game off with a repeat set in Fax’s ten their passing move wide was tipped which allowed Jake Maizen to intercept and run the length of the field and under the sticks to bring the game back to 26-22.
The final few minutes were end to end but the Bulls managed to hold on in another great advert for the Championship on Viaplay.
Dec Patton’s three assists earned him Man of the Match and deservedly so.