FRUSTRATED Halifax will bemoan a raft of wasted chances as all their hard work was ultimately undone by a more ruthless Toronto Wolfpack.
As always, Richard Marshall’s side defended well in their Qualifiers opener against the big-spending Championship leaders.
Indeed, it was not until Andrew Dixon’s 76th-minute try that the Canadian visitors – so intent on securing promotion – could be certain of the points against their part-time opponents.
However, Halifax, who missed the injured Simon Grix, were far too profligate in attack, generating plenty of pressure only to waste it either with a lack of creativity or simple poor execution.
The most glaring example was when Scott Murrell, the experienced stand-off whose footballing brain is made for these occasions, produced a brilliant 40/20 kick early in the second period to gain a prime attacking position.
They were trailing just 6-0 at that point and had ample time to retrieve the situation.
However, the West Yorkshire club – who gave debuts to on-loan Leeds Rhinos prop Jordan Baldwinson and Huddersfield Giants centre Sam Wood – somehow managed to lose the ball on the first tackle as Brandon Moore forced a pass that was never on.
Murrell, who knew such gilt-edged opportunities would be few and far between, went apoplectic.
Instead, Toronto settled for a Gareth O’Brien penalty goal on the hour mark to extend their slender advantage and, even then, it seemed like being enough to secure the two points. Granted, Halifax were rarely threatened, Kieren Moss making one try-saving tackle on Blake Wallace deep into the second period but that was irrelevant as their opponents capitalised when needed.
Toronto, to their credit, also defended admirably themselves especially considering the difficult position they found themselves in.
Paul Rowley’s side had the unusual occurrence of losing both wingers – Matty Russell and then Liam Kay – to injury as early as the 29th minute, bringing obvious problems for their rotations.
Overall, the game was a hard-fought affair, of few clear-cut chances and with those defences generally on top.
In fact, Toronto did not make the breakthrough until as late as the 36th minute when Andy Ackers exploited a rare lax moment in the Halifax goalline defence.
Admittedly, they had had two other efforts disallowed, first Russell after he dropped the ball over the line following O’Brien’s break and then when Chase Stanley was pulled back to O’Brien’s forward pass.
Furthermore, Adam Sidlow got over the line only to be held up by a wall of typically spirited Halifax defenders.
All of that would suggest Toronto had their hosts overrun but far from it; they were just isolated incidents with Marshall’s side proving more than competitive.
Second-row Shane Grady was a constant threat down the left edge, Ben Johnston and Murrell probed and cajoled well as they always do from half-back, while Jacob Fairbank epitomised Halifax’s forward effort. They had plenty of ball given Toronto’s ill-discipline, the fiery Jack Bussey lucky to stay on the field.
Johnston scampered clear after taking a miscued O’Brien kick with Moss almost getting clear down the middle while Chester Butler nearly barged his way over.
Unfortunately, Halifax just did not possess enough patience to make their ball count, too often forcing a pass when in good position or, as Moore did, losing possession too cheaply when attempting a raid.
Murrell, also, will have been disappointed with a couple of his kicks although with that 40/20 they should really have found that crucial breakthrough.
Halifax: Moss; Sharp, Heaton, Tyrer, Saltonstall; Murrell, Johnston; Maher, Kaye, Fairbank, Grady, Butler, Barber. Substitutes: Wood, Moore, Morris, Baldwinson.
Toronto Wolfpack: O’Brien; Russell, Stanley, Wheeler, Kay; McCrone, Wallace; Sims, Beswick, Luccick, Dixon, Paterson, Emmitt. Substitutes: Buchanan, Bussey, Ackers, Sidlow.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)