Freshly returned from our Wild West adventure, Hornets now make the somewhat shorter trip to Championship surprise package Halifax - who need to win to secure their place in the top four.
With Featherstone and Leigh both needing snookers to get into the mix, Halifax are in the box seat. But the implications of a Halifax win will be felt most at Leigh, where this week there’s been an implosion of catastrophic proportions as the reality of the situation came crashing in.
With their promotion dream all but over, Leigh owner Derek Beaumont has pulled the plug and instigated an exodus of expensive mercenaries in an attempt to slash costs ahead of the prize that no-one wants to win: the Championship Shield.
Notwithstanding the fact that Leigh have burned £3million in the last two years to end up in the same 8 as Hornets, the player departures leave Sheffield facing a heavily depleted Leigh at the weekend - which could unfairly tip the balance of the relegation fight too (all other clubs in the Championship Shit Fight™ having faced a full-strength Leigh previously). So thanks, Derek - not only have you f*cked-up Leigh’s season, you might well have f*cked up ours and Swinton’s too (as if anyone needed another reason to dislike Leigh).
While Beaumont has been raking twenties into a pile and rifling his pockets for a lighter, Richard Marshall’s Halifax have been steadily getting on with the business of winning Rugby League games and come into Sunday’s fixture on the back of a momentum-boosting defeat of Toulouse.
Interestingly, that win sucks TOXIIIC back into the chasing pack and they now need a win against Dewsbury on Saturday to avoid the possibility of missing the cut should Fev win in Toronto and London win at Barrow (the former is a distinct possibility as the Wolfpack rest some of their first-choice players). But however this weekend’s games play-out, our most eye-catching observation on the Championship table is the 16 point gap between 6th placed Leigh and 7th placed Batley - indication, if any were needed, of the ‘two league’s in one league’ nature of the competition.
Over at the Shay, Marshall has signed Huddersfield Giants centre Sam Wood on loan deal until the end of the season - with another Super League signing mooted ahead of the transfer deadline. Having made his debut for Huddersfield two years ago, Wood has only played six games for them, spending most of this year on loan at Workington.
On the injury front, Halifax are likely to be without forwards Adam Tangata (knee) and Shane Grady (foot) for Sunday’s game - both of whom played key roles in last week’s win over TOXIIIC.
Behind 14-13 with 10 minutes to go last week, Halifax dug deep for a converted Grady try and then stood firm in the face of a desperate Toulouse barrage. According to the Halifax Courier, the game ended “… with Toulouse within a metre of the try line”. It’s ‘goal-line’ - but we get their drift.
The result makes Sunday a cup final for Halifax: win and they are guaranteed a place in the Qualifying 8 with the dregs of Super League. What has brought Fax to this point is desire - finding ways to win against the odds. After the Toulouse game Richard Marshall identified ‘wanting it more’ as the deciding factor - and it’s that desire that Hornets will have to match if we are to ruin Fax’s impending party.
There’s no doubt that there was plenty of desire on show in Toronto, but Hornets were often architects of their own downfall, cursed - as we have been all season - by sloppiness and switching off at key moments (indeed, if there’s any lesson to be learned from our Championship stay, it’s that you have to stay on-point for every play of the full 80 minutes).
On the plus side, Hornets took every opportunity to move the ball around against the Wolfpack and - on several occasions - carved the Canadians wide open, but were unable to deliver the knock-out punch.
A performance of similar intensity against Fax should make for an interesting contest. And with a party to spoil, who wouldn’t want to be there? We’re heading for the main stand rather than do the Yorkshire ‘standing behind the posts’ thing.
See you there.