WATCH - Bradford Bulls 16 Halifax 20: Simon Grix hoping Cup heroics inspire next generation of Halifax fans

IT has been 31 years since Halifax last reached a Challenge Cup semi-final so it is perhaps no surprise their jubilant players celebrated yesterday like they had actually won at Wembley rather than Odsal.

Few could begrudge them their moment after they had defied plenty of odds to fight their way to a famous win over derby rivals Bradford Bulls and they now stand just 80 minutes away from a first final since 1988.

Admittedly the considerable presence of Super League leaders St Helens stands in their way, but that is for later – Bolton on July 27 – and for now the Championship part-timers will rightly enjoy this moment.

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Halifax – in only Simon Grix’s sixth game since taking charge – came from behind on three different occasions to at last win through in an absorbing contest full of intrigue and incident.

Halifax's Scott Murrell celebrates at full time. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

James Woodburn-Hall came on and delivered the telling blow with a wonderful solo try in the 74th minute, converted by Steve Tyrer who celebrated his 200th game for the club in style.

Former London Broncos half-back Woodburn-Hall – who played loose forward for the first time –had also helped set up a crucial try for Scott Grix yet had been playing for League 1 Hunslet on dual-registration a week earlier.

Indeed, if Halifax hooker Ben Kaye had not been available – he was married on Saturday – the 24-year-old might not even have played at all.

“Woody would certainly have come into the 19 even if we’d had Benny Kaye, but I’m not saying he would definitely have played,” said Halifax-born Grix.

“He went to Hunslet last week and did what I asked him to do.

“The win itself means a lot to me. Rugby league has probably slid in the pecking order in sports in our area certainly in participation levels at grass roots.

“Hopefully now there’s some kids picking up a ball and talking about Halifax rather than our neighbours the Bulls, (Huddersfield) Giants and so on.

“It’s big. It’s massive for a Championship team to get to a semi-final and we deserve it. We earned it.

“Everyone will be wanting us to go well against Saints and the lads will as well.

“They’ll be on roofs tomorrow, fitting boilers, laying bricks, whatever.

“We’ll think about Saints later, but we’ll enjoy this. The celebrations are pretty wild in there.”

Grix lost hard-running back row Ed Barber inside just six minutes due to a head knock before Bradford half-back Rowan Milnes was stretchered off with a broken leg after he had made a crucical tackle on Chester Butler.

Milnes had scored the only try of the first period, supporting well after Ross Oakes’s deft hands had sent David Foggin-Johnston racing down the left wing.

But Elliot Minchella missed the conversion attempt and also a simpler penalty attempt when Halifax were reduced to 12 men.

Adam Tangata was the player sin-binned in the 15th minute, but it seemed a harsh decision.

The Cook Islands forward was penalised for hitting Jordan Lilley late after the stand-off had kicked downfield, but it was marginal. Nevertheless Bradford failed to make the most of the extra man, rarely providing trouble while Tangata was off.

As well as Minchella missing that kick, Lilley stumbled on the last tackle resulting in a hand over and Liam Kirk ushered a pass forward on his own 40m line.

Indeed, Halifax looked the more threatening, Grix kicking a 40/20 only to then throw an intercept pass to let Bradford off the hook.

But with Lilley taking over kicking duties for a 38th-minute penalty to make it 6-0, the game was perfectly poised heading into the second half.

There was the rarity of an eight-point try when Tyrer rose high to brilliantly collect Scott Murrell’s crossfield kick and touch down, Jake Webster penalised for tackling the centre in the air and gifting him two successful shots at goal.

Bradford’s Mikey Wood was put on report after Dan Fleming accused him of biting before Webster atoned for his mistake, picking up the loose ball to score after Grix had made a mess of Matty Wildie’s high kick.

Lilley converted for a 12-8 lead, but Halifax would not rest,

Grix, the coach’s elder brother who is on loan from Huddersfield Giants, was on hand to finish off in the 65th minute after Woodburn-Hall broke and offloaded for Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e. Tyrer improved but when Kevin Larroyer lost the ball under pressure 25m from his own line, Wildie scampered over to see Bradford regain the lead once more.

Lilley missed again and those errant kicks proved costly as Woodburn-Hall dummied through and then dummied full-back Ethan Ryan in a glorious finish.

Bradford Bulls: Ryan; Grant, Webster, Oakes, Foggin-Johnston; Lilley, Milnes; Kirk, Wildie, Crossley, Minchella, Farrell, Hallas. Substitutes: Peltier, Wood, Flanagan, Storton.

Halifax: Laulu-Togaga’e; Sharp, Butler, Tyrer, Saltsonstall; Murrell, Grix; Kavanagh, Moore, Tangata, Cooper, Barber, Fairbank. Substitutes: Woodburn-Hall, Larroyer, Fleming, Morris.

Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (Leigh).