Kevin's sinking feeling

KEVIN McCallion could barely bring himself to watch the Launceston celebrations after the heartbreak of watching his side squander their chance of playing National Two rugby next season.

His players had already given their victors a sporting reception on the whistle, but had long disappeared to lick their wounds in the dressing room, leaving their disappointed and emotionally drained coach to stand on the turf which should have been a field of dreams, but which instead represented a nightmare on Keighley Road.

Many expected it to be a case of Halifax just turning up, after all their impressive home record and the fact they had only lost one match all season should have been enough to repel the invaders from Cornwall.

But turn up is exactly what Halifax didn't do as a number of errors and poor decision-making handed the incentive to Launceston, and they repaid their hosts' hospitality with an 18-16 win which could set Halifax's plans back a couple of years at least.

"To have played so well and so consistently all season and then turn in what is without a shadow of a doubt our worst performance of the year when it really mattered beggars belief," said a stunned McCallion.

"I've always felt that we were a team that responded to the big occasion, when we needed something, but at no stage during the game did I feel that we were hitting gear.

"We just didn't get out of the blocks at all and I just don't know why that was. Whether it was the long gap between the game and the season ending, although we have had the Yorkshire Cup, or whether the occasion got to the players, I don't know.

"But for some reason that was not the Halifax that have performed all season."

It was the basic errors which angered and frustrated McCallion the most.

"The rucking was shambolic," added McCallion. "We never produced quick ball and we were loose in and around the area.

"They took their chances very well. Their lineout was good, they mauled well, but we have beaten better teams than Launceston this season and that is what makes it all the more depressing.

"The momentum, the rhythm and the fire that has been with us all season just never happened."

Defeat was a bitter pill to swallow and stopped Halifax's resurgence firmly in its tracks.

And the worry is that the sheer effort put in to getting this far, followed by such a massive disappointment, could set Halifax off on the wrong foot next season.

McCallion's hope is that it has the opposite effect and makes his squad even more determined to gain automatic promotion next time.

"It is a major set-back for this club, and not one we expected," added McCallion. "But we have to learn the lesson. You don't perform and you get a kick in the teeth."

McCallion dismissed suggestions that the players could have been over-confident, adding. "I don't think that was the problem at all.

"I'm struggling to put my finger on exactly what it was, but I will do. We will re-group and do it all the hard way again next season.

"When you finish 18 /19 points ahead of your nearest rivals and then you have to go back and do it all again, it will be tough.

"We'll just have to come back as hard as we can, keep the team together and make sure this doesn't happen again."

McCallion is confident he will retain the services of the vast bulk of his squad, after all he believes they still have plenty to prove.

"We didn't win the league and we didn't win the play-off therefore we didn't deserve to go up.

"They are the best set of boys I have ever worked with and they have been marvellous all season.

"They know we have to put this right, and we will."