Fax can benefit from Cup fever

THE Challenge Cup hangover is a recognised sporting phenomenon.

And it is one that Halifax will be desperately hoping to take advantage off when they look to reinforce their position at the top of the Co-operative Championship at Post Office Road tomorrow.

The pressure and drama of knockout rugby league drain teams and individuals of physical and emotional energy like nothing else.

You don’t have to look very far to find examples of a side lurching from an incredible Cup performance one weekend to a terrible league one seven days later.

Remember 2009, when Fax, under the guidance of Matt Calland, lost that action-packed tie against Castleford at Wheldon Road in golden-point extra time?

Fax were unbelievable that day, prompting Calland to make that famous ‘country mile’ comment in the post-match Press call.

At the time, with the adrenalin pumping, he must have felt justified.

After all, if his side had played like that all year, who in the Championship would have got near them?

The problem, of course, is that you cannot play at that level of intensity consistently, it is simply not possible.

A week later, as Fax lost their unbeaten league record with a desperate home performance against Sheffield, his claim looked more than a little ridiculous.

Fax were awful that day; tired, lethargic, drained.

And that is exactly what they will be hoping Featherstone are like tomorrow.

Daryl Powell’s side were sensational against Wigan in the fifth round last Friday night, a credit to their club and the game outside Super League.

But just as they dipped after beating Castleford in round four - scraping past lowly Swinton the following week - it seems unthinkable they will be on top of their game tomorrow.

And while Fax rode their own emotional rollercoaster on the way to that 19-18 golden-point defeat at Leigh, that game is not on the same once-in-a-career scale as Rovers’ meeting with the Warriors.

Rovers won’t just roll over, of course; Fax will need to put them under considerable pressure if they want to take advantage.

To do that, they will need to be more clinical than they were at Leigh Sports Village last weekend.

In appalling conditions, Fax made more line breaks than the home side and had more chances and half chances, and yet finished with the same number of tries.

The opportunity they butchered in the first period, when Anthony Thackeray and Dane Manning cut Leigh to ribbons down the right, was a case in point.

Tomorrow, those need to be taken.

Because while Leigh look like a top four Championship side in the making, Rovers are the reigning champions and a team it is difficult to envisage finishing the year outside the top two.

But if a team is going to go to their Post Office Road fortress and win, this is probably as good a chance as any.