“We have to manage the game well and do what we’re good at” says Grix as Panthers aim to bounce back from Bulls defeat

Halifax Panthers boss Simon Grix is keen to right the wrongs following his team’s agonising 27-26 defeat to Bradford Bulls last weekend.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 9:00 am
Narrow defeat: Halifax Panthers were unable to follow-up on their great start against Bradford Bulls last weekend. Picture: Simon Hall

Panthers host leaders Toulouse on Sunday desperate to return to winning ways and get their Betfred Championship charge back on track but Grix knows that his team must perform for the full 80 minutes, unlike last week when they let slip a 14-0 lead.

He said: “We had a really good opening 20 minutes, and then they started rushing us which broke up the rhythm. We gave them too much of the ball during the period after the sin-bins too, and their pressure told in the end. It’s important to hurt when you lose, just as it is important to celebrate when you win. We’ll get together and have a look at the game.

“It’s not about being too harsh on anyone, most tries can be stopped. It’s just about learning and improving over the next few games.”

And Panthers will need to improve if they are to inflict a first defeat of the season on table toppers Toulouse on Sunday.

He said: “During the Bradford game, we didn’t execute our game plan often enough. Things we practised during the week, we did on two or three occasions only.
“Over 80 minutes it’s not good enough, because it’s not rocket science either. If we play for 15 minutes against a team like Toulouse, we will be up against it. I’m hoping to see a reaction from the boys. They [Toulouse] have a lot of craft at dummy-half.

“A lot of names there have played at Championship level for a number of years, and they bring some flair. Whilst they’re good at what they do, we have to manage the game well, and do what we’re good at. That’s the key really.”

Wigan Warriors loanee Amir Bourouh came off the bench and caught the eye of Grix, who said: “He’s had to be patient and wait for his chance.
“I wanted him to run, and to bring people into the game. He was excellent, and he will be a really important member of the squad moving forward.”
In assessing the squad’s training plan, Grix identified areas from the three competitive matches so far that need improvement.

“There have been common patterns in our losses to Batley and Bradford,” said Grix. “These elements keep coming up, so we need to address them as soon as possible before the weekend. We can’t afford to be off the pace against Toulouse.”

The only injury worries for Fax are Scott Grix and Matt Garside, who may miss the Toulouse game.

The Panthers boss said: “For Scott, a hamstring injury could be any number of weeks. We will have to see what the diagnosis is on that one. Matt probably won’t be available with the new concussion protocols. There will have to be some changes to the line-up, but we have guys ready to go.”

Meanwhile, Panthers’ centre Greg Worthington also bemoaned his side’s failure to make the most of their strong start against the Bulls.

He said: “We had a really good first 20 minutes. After that, there were a few little things which knocked us off our stride.

“We then didn’t recover well enough, and establish our dominance. That is what ultimately gave Bradford the win.

“Once we took the lead, we deviated from our game plan. Bradford stepped it up, and it was quite even for the rest of the game. We didn’t ever return to the level of the first 20 minutes, and it is an 80-minute game.”

Danny Brough and Jordan Lilley were instrumental in leading the Bulls’ attacking moves. Lilley scored one try; and kicked the crucial game-winning goal.

While acknowledging the quality of the Bulls, Worthington suggested the Halifax defence should have been able to stop their attacking influence, adding: “Clearly their experience helps in games like this, but equally we have to be up in their faces and stopping them.

“We didn’t do that nearly well enough, and it gave them the space they needed to hurt us.”

“We need to be winning the games for the supporters, and for ourselves.

“We have to be winning games like this, especially with the start we made. We can’t be good for 20 minutes; it has to be the entire game.”

“All the sides in the Championship are physically strong. I think it’s often the smartest teams which are the best, as they know how to handle the crucial elements and periods of games.

“I think Toulouse have one of the best teams on paper, and we need to be at our best if we are going to stand a chance of getting a result.”