Halifax secured their first Coral Challenge Cup semi-final since 1988 after a thrilling 20-16 victory at Bradford Bulls – where they will face Betfred Super League leaders St Helens at the University of Bolton Stadium on July 27.
Bradford shocked Super League outfit Leeds to secure their place in the last eight and John Kear’s men would have fancied their chances against their fellow Betfred Championship rivals at Odsal.
Kear, who won the competition in 1998 with Sheffield Eagles and Hull FC in 2005, saw his side lead 6-0 at the break through Rowan Milnes’ converted try. However, the roller coaster second half began when Scott Murrell’s high kick was collected by Steve Tyrer, only for the centre to be taken out in the air by opposite number Jake Webster for a penalty try.
Tyrer kicked both conversions to put Fax 8-6 up, but Webster made amends for his mistake to put the Bulls back in front. Halifax moved 14-12 ahead when Scott Grix then broke through the home defence and under the posts.
Bradford thought they won it when Kevin Larroyer lost the ball in midfield, which Matty Wildie pounced on to sprint clear and into the corner with Jordan Lilley missing his third kick to leave Bradford two points clear with 10 minutes remaining.
But man-of-the-match James Woodburn-Hall produced a fine step to invade the Bulls defence before strolling under the posts to seal a historic victory.
Halifax head coach Simon Grix said: “It’s unbelievable really, considering how the game went. We went down to 16 men pretty much straight away with Ed Barber going off with a nasty head knock.
“That puts the bench under pressure and then we lost Adam for hitting the kicker late. We did well to come through that period and, going in at half-time six behind, I was real happy with that. We didn’t play anywhere near where we could.
“We had the character and stuck in there before coming up with the right plays at the right time.
“I think it emotionally flawed Bradford when we got the penalty try and we grew a bit. It was gutsy. I couldn’t be happier. It’s pretty wild in the changing room.”
Bradford boss Kear said: “We’re obviously intensely disappointed. We thought we had a great opportunity.
“We experienced the elation against Featherstone and Leeds and I think we can look back on our journey in the Challenge Cup with a great deal of pride.
“It’s such fine margins. Halifax came out on the right side on the scoring ledger and I’d like to congratulate them.
“I thought they played a really good game. It was good standard for the championship, I thought it was the best game of the four (quarter-finals) to tell you the truth.”