Pack fitness is under scrutiny

HALIFAX boss Karl Harrison has made it clear the Rugby Football League’s new 10-interchange rule is likely to be an increasingly influential factor in his team selections as the weather hots up.

Harrison watched his side make it two wins from two Co-operative Championship starts with a 24-18 success at York yesterday, although it took a last-play try from captain Sean Penkywicz to see off the Knights, who had levelled at 18-18 with just minutes remaining at the Huntington Stadium.

But on a pleasantly warm spring afternoon, the former Great Britain prop confirmed the reduction in the number of replacements coaches can make from 12 to 10, had put a strain on a bench which included three forwards: Sam Barlow, Luke Ambler and Joe Chandler.

“We nearly ran out of subs in the end,” said Harrison, whose side led 18-12 at the break and were never behind.

“I honestly think some of the players in the forward pack and on the bench are going to either have to lose some weight or get fitter if they want to feature consistently.

“People need to be able to play longer minutes and that’s going to get more important as we get closer to summer.

“But overall, we created some excitement at the end there and I thought we showed great character.

“We probably made enough chances to win three games, but we showed an inability to keep the pressure on York at the right times and in the end we needed to come up with a big play from Penkywicz at the end to take the points.

“I’m happy with the result and aspects of the performance, but there are also things I am disappointed with.”

Such a close finish had looked unlikely as Fax shot into a 12-0 lead with two well taken tries from centre Ben Heaton, both converted by Lee Paterson.

“The game plan was killing them early on and maybe the players thought it was a bit easy,” said Harrison, who picked out the former York winger Wayne Reittie and in-form back rower Adam Robinson for individual praise.

“We went 12-0 up and then didn’t complete a set of tackles in their half of the field for the next 20 minutes.

“That was poor: We looked too lateral, couldn’t get to the kick, couldn’t do what we wanted to do.

“We keep saying we’re a new team, but we’ve been together a few months now and maybe that’s getting a bit old now.

“I don’t think we’re far off clicking to be honest, some of the tries we scored were very good.

“Our halves were a bit off, but it’s such a skinny field it makes it difficult to move the ball effectively.

“I thought Reittie was very good, causing them all kinds of problems.

“Robinson has been so consistent across the six games we’ve played now and he deserves all the accolades he is getting at the moment.”

Report and pictures - pages 30-31