Fax dominate Bulls derby, but lose Grix, Heaton to injury

Ben Johnston puts in a kick at Odsal
Ben Johnston puts in a kick at Odsal

Halifax coach Richard Marshall watched his side bolster their top four Championship credentials with a rock solid derby win over Bradford Bulls at Odsal, a victory that left them just two points shy of second place ahead of Monday’s home game against Oldham (7.30).

Fax eased home 22-12 to record their fifth win in seven starts since the Bulls dropped out of Super League, and remain fourth on the ladder, ahead of London on points difference after a Good Friday when rivals Batley, Featherstone and Toulouse all lost.

With captain Scott Murrell bossing the game behind an outstanding forward effort, Fax only really looked under pressure in the third quarter, when a young but determined Bulls side had a long spell of pressure as they tried to close a 10-0 deficit.

“We defended well, kept scrambling for each other, and we frustrated them,” said Marshall.

“As long you’re doing that, with that attitude of working hard for each other, you won’t be too far away.

“I saw the other results, but we try not to pay too much attention to those; if we play like that, with that energy and enthusiasm, the table will take care of itself.

“I was really pleased, I thought our toughness was great and we put two halves together.

“I must credit Bradford, they’ve a young side and they were up against it for most of the game, but they battled through and got a couple of scores at the end.

“We tweaked the plan a bit because of the weather and the personnel, but I thought we did a good job on their experienced players.

“Overall, I think our kick chase and kick reception was as good as it’s been all year.

“Scott led us round the field exceptionally well with his kicking game, Ben Johnston kicked well in ‘good ball’ and James Saltonstall scored us a couple of important tries.”

The significant downside for Fax was the loss of two outstanding performers; centre Ben Heaton, who only returned from a seven week absence against Dewsbury last weekend, and back rower Simon Grix, one of the club’s best players in 2017.

Grix left the field after 10 minutes with an elbow injury, while Heaton suffered concussion and a suspected facial fracture in a heavy second half collision.

“To lose Simon, who’s been one of our best players, has taken the shine off a good win for me,” said Marshall, who has already ruled both players out of the meeting with the Roughyeds while he waits for medical reports.

“He has hyper extended his elbow.

“It’s swollen though and he can’t move his arm, which isn’t a good sign and he won’t play Monday.

“Ben’s got a possible fractured cheekbone, so we’ll wait for X rays on that, but he won’t play Monday either because he failed his concussion test when he went off.

“Adam Tangata was running on one leg in the second half, so we’ll look at that as well.

“I will speak with Ian Watson at Salford today (Saturday) and see what the dual-registration situation is, and we’ve got players of our own ready to play as well, so we’ll see how everyone comes in on Sunday and make some decisions then.”