Halifax coach Simon Grix reflected on a ‘brilliant effort’ after his side’s Challenge Cup mission impossible against runaway Super League leaders St Helens.
Fax eventually went down 26-2 at Bolton, trailing by just two scores until the 60th minute, when England half back Jonny Lomax finally settled Saints’ nerves and set up a Wembley decider against Warrington, who beat Hull earlier in the afternoon.
But Grix’s part-timers emerged with their collective reputation enhanced, even restored, after a difficult Championship season.
“Our effort was brilliant, we just ran out of energy a little bit, which was why the scoreline drifted a bit at the end,” said Grix, who highlighted veteran hooker James Roby, returning from a six week injury absence, as a key difference between the teams.
“But what am I on about? That scoreline was miles better than anyone expected.
“If truth be told, I’ve played us down all week, but in the back of my mind there was always a feeling that we’d turn up for a big game, for an occasion.
“We rose to the challenge and had a dig and they’ve earned their praise and a few beers.
“We made some early errors, but we had some steel about us to be able to defend them.
“If we’d managed to get to the finish of those sets, end them better, or even just turn the ball over on their line, then we might have been in a bit better shape.
“At 8-2, we were obviously pleased at half time and we spoke about them being human; they’re a great side, but they’re not superhuman.
“It was a positive dressing room, because the players had realised they could compete.
“I thought our shape was poor with the ball, which we spoke about, but the fatigue probably got us a little bit in the second half.
“I thought their backs - Makinson, Grace, Percival - got us and Roby at hooker; we dealt with their middles very well, I thought.
“We can go away, have a beer tonight and then we’ve five games left, starting with Toulouse next Sunday.”
Grix had sparked some consternation before kick off, leaving full back Quentin Laulu-Togagae out of his 19-man squad.
The Samoan, tipped to join League 1 Newcastle, had scored two tries in last weekend’s 28-28 draw at Dewsbury but also made a series of key errors.
“Every week, I try and pick the best team for us, focused on the team we’re facing and Q isn’t our best full back,” said Grix, who recalled his brother, Scott, after a two week absence with a torn calf.
“We’re better with Scott at full back, whether he’s my brother or not and all that rubbish.
“That’s my opinion, and it’s my opinion that counts.
“I watch all our games three times; people might see tries and breaks from the terraces, but there is a lot more to rugby league than that.
“There were other tough decisions too.
“Liam Cooper, who’s been good for us, and it was a difficult one for him to swallow against his parent club.
“James Woodburn-Hall, he was another tough one.
“It’s difficult, but I thought everyone who played today did their job.”