HALIFAX coach Karl Harrison admitted he felt some sympathy for London Skolars after his side pipped them on the final play of yesterday’s Northern Rail Cup clash at the New River Stadium.
Fax winger Wayne Reittie pounced on an 83rd-minute kick from Paul Handforth – who started the game after Harrison opted not to rest his vice-captain – to put the visitors in front for the first time and seal a crucial 16-12 success that takes them through to the knockout stage.
The lowly Championship One side had failed to score a point against Fax in their previous two meetings in London, but ripped up the formbook with a smothering defensive performance.
“The Skolars deserve tremendous credit,” said Harrison, whose side now join Featherstone, Batley, Keighley, Leigh, Sheffield, York and Hunslet in the last eight of the competition.
“I felt a bit sorry for their coach Joe Mbu, because his players did everything that was asked of them and then more.
“Ultimately though, we are through to the quarter finals.
“We needed to get a result and we did; how we did it is probably immaterial in this case.
“We were always pressing for the winning try, and I felt we created enough chances across the 80 minutes to have won a lot more comfortably.
“For whatever reason, the passes didn’t stick and we didn’t choose the right options, but I don’t think you can fault the effort of the team.
“We were probably a bit jaded after last week’s game against Featherstone, which looking at their result against Batley perhaps took more out of us than we realised.
“But we showed tremendous character and commitment to hang in there and get the win in the end.”
Harrison singled out his former Batley protege Adam Robinson, who turned in an 80 minute effort up front, as a key performer.
“Robinson was pretty good again with an 80 minute effort, Jim Gannon was our best player in the first half and I thought young Callum Casey lifted us off the bench,” said the former Test forward, who also handed a first team return to utility player Lee Paterson, who played the final half hour in the back row.
“I was disappointed with some of the decisions we made at half back, but that happens sometimes.
“We’ll put the wrongs right in practice this week and look forward to the start of the league campaign against Hunslet next weekend. We need to learn to set our own standards and expectations and not fall below them, no matter who we’re playing.”
Harrison reported only one significant injury concern, with loose forward Craig Ashall – who faces the RFL disciplinary committee tomorrow night for his part in last week’s brawl against Featherstone – nursing a knee problem.