Friday, 23 February 2018

Sunday's Coming: Halifax

Sunday sees surrogate derby rivals Halifax make the trip over the tops.

Having lost at Fev in round one, followed by a thrashing of Sheffield in round two, Halifax come into Sunday’s game on the back of last week's gruelling battle with the Championship’s ‘Harlem Globetrotters’/WWF-style poseurs Manchestoronto Moosef*ckers (©Jerry Sadowitz 1991).

'Fax led 6-4 at the break and trailed just 12-6 going into the last 10 minutes, but they shipped two late Higson tries to flatter the visitors, who went some way to restoring their veneer of unconvincing invincibility.

Marshall blamed ‘errors’ for his side’s defeat, saying in the Halifax Courier this week: “It’s about controlling the ball a little bit better; we turned the ball over three or four times on tackle two… “We were creating chances, but not sealing the deal. We’ve got to get more composed.”

Indeed, from our point of view, Halifax focused well on ‘standing up’ to the brute-force aspect of Toronto’s game, but having done that, they kinda forgot to to try and play round them too. Toronto stayed patient, withstood the ‘grind’ and scored late, once ‘Fax had emptied the tank.

There was also a moment of controversy when winger Saltonstall was dumped dangerously in a horrific looking spear tackle, to which referee Jack Smith mislaid his backbone and waved only a yellow card at McCrone. On any other day - and with any other team - it was a nailed-on red.

But then no-one would want a repeat of the Barrow outcome, would they…

Richard Marshall has fine-tuned his squad this year, adding  Harry Kidd (University of Gloucestershire All Golds), Kian Morgan (Wakefield Trinity), Dan Fleming (Toronto)  and yet another Rugby League Fairbank in the shape of Halifax born Jack. Indeed,  Marshall has a first-team squad boasting 13 players from the town of Halifax. And we like that - a lot.

Marshall has also augmented his squad with Will Maher, Brandon Douglas and James Clare on loan/DR from Castleford (Clare has haunted us in the past, when he played on DR at York - no more so than the time they flogged us at Featherstone’s Post Office Rd).

Hornets’ preparation for Sunday was a harsh reality check from Dewsbury Rams. Having missed rounds 1 and 2, Killer’s side looked a bit undercooked in the first 40 minutes, but rallied to put in a much improved second-half performance.

It came at a price, though, with Ben Moore, Matty Hadden and Gaz Middlehurst picking up knocks in the process, to add injuries to insult in this shocking start to 2018.

But if strength comes from adversity, then Hornets should be throroughly annealed by now - and we’ll need all the physical and mental toughness we can muster over the next few testing weeks.

A more immediate concern, though is meteorological. Weather experts predicting plummeting temperatures as we head for a forecast record-testing cold snap. Pray for sunshine - and we’ll see you Sunday.