Friday, 5 April 2019

Sunday's Coming: Halifax

Halifax come over the hill on Sunday for what is now our local 'derby' - and by their recent standards, they're having a somewhat ordinary start to their season.

Having reached the SL Qualifiers in 2017 and 2018 (finishing 3rd and 4th respectively) Halifax currently sit 8th in the comp with a 4 and 4 record and a -75 points difference - giving Richard Marshall's side the dubious honour of topping the Championship's 'League within a League'

Halifax scraped past League 1 Hunslet in the Cup by 24-28 last week, and have all the hallmarks of a team struggling to find rhythm: either losing games by a sizeable margin or edging unconvincing victories. Their only dominant thus far win a 26-nil drubbing of Dewsbury last month.

Last week, though Halifax had to come from behind to beat the League 1 leaders - despite having led early doors. Hunslet took a 16-6 lead into the break and were hanging on to a six point lead with 70 minutes gone. But two fortuitous late tries - one off a Hunslet fumble, the second from a pass deflecting off a defender - proved enough to earn Halifax a home tie against London Broncos in the next round.

Our three to watch are:

Quentin Laulu-Togaga'e: Having begun his career at Souths Logan Magpies in the Queensland Cup, Tongan international QLT has plied his footy trade in the UK. He earned a reputation as a bit of a points machine in his five seasons at Sheffield with 183 tries (and smashing the club's 'tries in a season' record). He also weighed in with 22 more scores in his 33 games for Manchestoronto. Since then, his career has stuttered a bit. Four tries in four games for Halifax in 2018, before heading into Super League with Castleford where he looked to have made a good step-up (scoring 6 tries in his 9 games), but eyebrows were raised when he wasn't retained at the end of last year.

Scott Murrell: the dynamo at the heart of the Halifax side, Murrell looks every inch like a bloke who's won a place on the team photo in a raffle. But his laid-back style belies his influence on the Halifax side. Fundamentally, everything goes via his hands or his right boot, so if you can persuade him to have an off-day, Halifax as a unit will follow. Murrell has played over 175 games for 'Fax since his move from Hull, KR in 2013, so it's fair to say that Richard Marshall has built his team around Murrell's abilities. Most interesting to us is that he has accrued a career total of 10 drop-goals. So if it's a tight game - get to the kicker.

Steve Tyrer: since joining from Widnes in 2012, Tyrer has kicked 668 goals for Halifax. Thats about 112 goals a season. Or more than 4 per game. Bloke's a machine - doesn't miss. No penalties.

Hornets come into the game also having nicked a challenge cup tie against League 1 opposition. Having struggled to make headway against an obstinate and agricultural Whitehaven side, Hornets played some of their most expansive, high-tempo football for some time - in the last minute of each half! Finishing both halves strongly was the key to a workmanlike win and if Fozzy can instil that desire to move the ball at pace more often, we'll be a hard team to stop.

Of late, Halifax have had the wood over Hornets, so we go looking to break another sequence of defeats - and given Halifax's current malaise, now is a good time to get them.

Games against our nearest Yorkshire rivals have always been tough, combative affairs and if Hornets can stay in the game and stifle Fax's playmakers, this one too could come down to who blinks first.

We're looking forward to this one. See you Sunday.