Simon Grix asks his Halifax Panthers players ‘can you do that every week?’ after spirited showing against world champions St Helens
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In a rematch of the classic 1987 final, in which Fax, miraculously, won 19-18, Grix’s men, despite a brave effort, were unable to provide another shock in this famous competition as two tries from Joey Lussick and efforts from Jake Wingfield, Tommy Makinson and Jack Welsby put the Saints in firm control.
But the Panthers were a constant pest to the Saints defence and were rewarded for their endeavours when Jacob Fairbank scored Fax’s first try against St Helens since 2002.
“We didn’t have anything to lose,” admitted a proud Grix after the game. “Although you can lose your pride and go away a little bit dented and not be happy with yourself, I thought we represented the club well, the fans well, our families well and everyone had a good dig which is the important piece tonight.
“Fortunately, with some effort and endeavour, we hung in there and kept it at a respectable scoreline. The tries we conceded were bang average and I’d be pretty wounded every week at those tries, just because it is Saints won’t stop the toes curling when we do the review this week.
“But I thought we were good and we competed. It was a good-effort game from us and now the question for us is, “Can you do that every week?” If we can get near that intensity every week and show that effort and desire to get off our line and enjoy the physical contest at defence then I think we can go very far this year. That’s the challenge over to the boys.
He added: “Could we do that every week against St Helens? Probably not, but it’s there when we call up on it. And if we can call up on it more often it will start becoming a bit of a norm to us, certainly at Championship level.
“I thought we were in it and we competed. Towards the end, had we not had a couple of brain explosions, I think we might have got a couple more points as well which would have made it look even better.
“It’s a loss, so we’ll park it there. We won’t get too excited about it because, in the end, it doesn’t mean a lot. We can be proud of it but we move on now.”
Nearly 5,000 people packed into The Shay to see a Saints side visit Halifax for the first time since 2003. And they produced a fantastic atmosphere. On the crowd and the abundance of youngsters in attendance, Grix said:
“A long time ago, when I was 15, 16 and in the academy, I remember standing in the top corner (of the South Stand) and every stand was packed. It was really good.
“These young kids, whether we like it or not, they don’t view the Panthers and our players as superstars, not just yet. And the draw tonight was probably St Helens for them. But it’s good for them to see the stadium packed out.”
Fax were dealt a huge blow in the first when they lost Joe Keyes due to injury. Grix said:
“We don’t know yet but to come off that tells you that it’s not a good one but we will obviously investigate further this week. I would imagine, medium-term injury, he will probably be out for a while. That’s rugby, these challenges come around.
“Keyesy is important to us but everyone needs to step up and take a little bit on and then there’ll be a few decisions as to who plays in his absence. We have got capable bodies who can jump in there and do a good job for us.
“We have got some really good attacking threats across the field, it’s not just Keyesy that’s got us home un games, Louis’s been great, our nines have been good, James Woodburn-Hall has been mega at full-back. We have got a lot of artillery, one of them’s gone, we just need to make sure we sharpen the other ones.”
The game was part one of a special sporting weekend for the town of Halifax, as part two involves the Shaymen playing at Wembley in the FA Trophy final on Sunday. And Grix, although he won’t be there, will be cheering on Chris Millington’s men.
He said: “I am sure they will be supported loud and proud and a lot of our fans will be going down. I certainly will be tuning in to watch and cheer them on.
“In the past, we have just got this odd rivalry, it doesn’t make any sense. We play at the same venue, there’s not really much connection between the two clubs. I think that is probably something that needs correcting and I don’t mind putting my hand up to say I’ll be cheering them on.
“I hope they have a good dig at it.”