HALIFAX boss Matt Calland was gracious in defeat after his side’s last-play loss to Leigh in yesterday’s Northern Rail Cup final at Bloomfield Road.
Calland’s players and 3,000 travelling fans were left heartbroken after Tom Armstrong’s late try broke a 16-16 stalemate and won the trophy for Ian Millward’s side.
But after a high-quality contest, Calland could only praise his players’ performance against the Co-operative Championship high flyers.
“I am really proud of them all, it was a game that could have gone either way right up until the last second,” said Calland, whose side dominated the opening half on their way to a 10-0 interval lead.
“We have had some results go our way in games like that, but this one we just clocked off for a split second at the end and it got away from us.
“I thought the players were magnificent, they had a real dig out there, and it was certainly a good quality game.
“We came up with a really good first half performance: We completed really well, we got a good hit and stick in defence and we really squeezed them.
“I thought we were far superior and I was happy with a 10 point lead.
“But in the second half, we fell away from that a little bit and they got a roll on.”
In a dramatic last 10 minutes, Fax had several potentially pivotal decisions go against them as Leigh levelled through Jamie Ellis’ 74th-minute try before clinching victory.
“The big call was when Rob Worrincy went through the middle and Bob Beswick was pulled down in back play,” said Calland, who dropped Australian Dylan Nash to the bench and brought James Haley and the fit-again Jon Goddard into the centres.
“The referee played the advantage, but we didn’t score and we didn’t get the chance to go for the two points.
“It was a difficult call, a tough call, but I thought in general he had a good game.
“There were lots of little things in the game: There was a charge down, we got caught with the ball on the last tackle.
“In the end though, it just wasn’t our day.”
Calland must now lift his squad for next weekend’s Co-operative Championship date with York at the Shay, a game they need to win to maintain their play off charge.
“It’s going to be a difficult week,” he said.
“We will probably give the boys a couple of days off to get over this and then move on to York.
“We need to win virtually all our remaining league games so we don’t have time to dwell on this.”