Halifax coach Richard Marshall conceded his team were effectively out-muscled by hard-hitting Super League side Catalans Dragons in Sunday’s Super 8s Qualifiers clash at the Shay.
Despite having their opponents on the rack for significant periods of a scoreless opening half hour, Fax went down 24-0 against the French side, who set a new benchmark for aggression.
Referee Chris Kendall sin-binned three players - the Dragons’ former Australia Test player Greg Bird for a wild throw on Fax winger Ben Heaton and visiting winger Vincent Duport and Fax’s Ben Johnston following a late dust up, but drew the ire of the crowd by refusing to punish a string of other perceived fouls.
“We were up against it against a very strong team,” admitted Marshall, who saw captain and playmaker Scott Murrell taken to hospital following a series of late challenges.
“They’re probably the strongest team we’ve played in terms of physicality and they took it to the limit; they did a real job on Scott Murrell, he got taken out a few times after he’d passed the ball.
“Scott’s in a bad way if I’m honest. He’s got a knuckle injury and some whiplash.
“We’re not used to that intensity.
“Policing that stuff is up to the referee really, all we can do is look after our own discipline.
“I thought Ben (Johnston) could have held his nerve a bit more when he got his head rubbed by Duport, but they did get under our skin.
“It went over the line a bit at times.”
The scoreline arguably failed to reflect Fax’s endeavour, with the Dragons looking rattled for most of the first 40 minutes before breakaway tries from half back Richie Myler and back rower Louis Anderson gave them some breathing space at the break.
“I thought we were very good in the first half,” said Marshall, whose side face a crucial, but in theory more winnable contest, in London next Sunday (3.0).
“We conceded off a kick and a very late offload.
“I felt like we’d done a lot of work and the momentum of the game was in our favour, but they scrambled well, made a couple of try saving tackles, and we couldn’t quite break them down.
“They’re fighting for their lives and they played with a degree of desperation.
“I think the break helped them more than it did us.
“They looked like a nervous team; they made some characteristic errors, which is something they do have in their game.
“We just couldn’t convert it into points at the other end.
“We spurned a couple of chances to go for goal; we were looking to score and win the game, not just knock over a couple of penalties and consolidate.”