By Jacob Kilbride | Photo by Simon Hall
Ahead of this Sunday's Betfred Championship clash away to third-placed Sheffield Eagles, we spoke to Halifax RLFC head coach Richard Marshall to preview the fixture.
Firstly Richard, it was a difficult Easter period for ourselves. How do you reflect on that?
"It was a really difficult weekend. It was tough to back up the Bradford match from Friday which pretty much went to plan, apart from the last 15, 20 minutes. There were lots of factors that contributed to the free-for-all on Monday. Toulouse were very good and brought in 5 or 6 fresh players, whereas we had the same 13 that played against Bradford. However, our defence was abysmal and we have to fix that up individually and as a team. We’re conceding too many points because we’re not sticking to our systems. It’s not through a lack of effort, it’s the opposite really, people trying to do too much, by jumping out of the line."
There's been a lot of talk about the Easter period and the difficulties of playing two matches in four days. What are your thoughts on that?
"We’re not making any excuses for our performances, because every team in this league is in the same boat, but, for part-time teams, it’s a big ask, especially for ourselves playing two full-time teams, with one of those being in the south of France. Everybody likes a derby match and the Bradford game was a great match for the neutral. But, for us to back that up on the Monday going overseas, was really difficult."
How tough a test will Sheffield be given their start to the season?
"They’re a really strong side and it’s not by fluke. They’ve given some of the bigger clubs a shock and got a great result against Toulouse last week. They’ll be going into the game with lots of confidence after that. But, as we’ve seen throughout this year, on any day any team can beat each other. We managed to defeat a Super League side (London Broncos) only a couple of matches ago. We’ve got to raise our game to get the result that we want."
Scott Murrell and Chester Butler are back in the 19-man squad after injury.
"It’s great to have Chester and Scott back in from injury. Chester played a part in our Reserves’ game against England Universities this week to help him back to full fitness. We’ll be putting a good plan together this week to try and get the win and those two players will be vital in us being able to do that."
What's the injury situation with the other members of the squad?
"Harry Kidd and James Saltonstall are carrying injuries after the Toulouse game. Harry’s injured his knee and James has hurt his back. Simon Grix is recovering every week but he’s not in a position to play this week unfortunately. He’s an experienced player, but we don’t want to rush him back and risk further injury. Shane Grady, Ben Johnston and Sion Jones are our longer-term injuries. Adam Tangata is around 4 or 5 weeks away from coming back."