HALIFAX boss Matt Calland rated Saturday night’s against-the-odds Co-operative Championship win at Barrow as one of the highlights of his five and a half year coaching stint with the club.
Fax were trailing 12-6 at Craven Park in a contest crucial to both clubs’ play off hopes when Kiwi prop Frank Watene was red carded by referee Jamie Leahy for pushing Raiders full back Gary Broadbent into a concrete barrier.
Broadbent was knocked unconscious and required treatment, but returned to the action in the final quarter.
But Calland’s side, who will contest next weekend’s Northern Rail Cup final against Leigh at Blackpool, closed the gap to 12-10 at the break and then dominated the second period, finally clinching victory with Paul White’s late try.
Last season’s Grand Final winners remain outside the play off places, but are now only two points adrift of the Raiders with a game in hand.
“As far as determination, toughness and working for each other goes, that was probably the best performance since I have been here,” said Calland, who lost winger Rob Worrincy to a training injury the day before the game and only had two fit replacements in the second 40 after first half injuries to Ryan Clayton (hamstring) and Ryan Fieldhouse (ankle).
“I can’t speak highly enough of the players, the way they defended in that second half, a man down away from home, was massive.
“There were some great performances: Bob Beswick was immense for us, Paul Smith was really good, Miles Greenwood was man of the match for me.
“We knew we needed two big performances in eight days to try and make our season and we’ve got one of them.
“We just need another one next weekend now.
“We are under no illusions, we know it is going to be even tougher against Leigh.”
Calland was quick to defend Watene, who appeared to be penalised for the Craven Park geography – Courier Sport understands the distance between the deadball line and the concrete perimeter fence is right on the limit of the Rugby Football League’s regulations – as much as any malicious intent.
“I have known Frank for a long time, as a person and a player, and he hasn’t got a bad bone in his body,” said Calland.
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