Halifax coach Richard Marshall says his side are prepared for “fitter, bigger, faster, and more skilful” opposition when Toronto arrive at the Shay in round three of the Championship on Sunday (3.0).
Fax opened their league account at the second time of asking last weekend, easing past Sheffield Eagles 30-10 to record their first win of any kind since they hammered Super League-bound champions elect Hull KR 28-6 on July 23 last year, a barren run of 11 matches.
At the same time, Paul Rowley’s expensively assembled Wolfpack, one of the favourites for promotion after blitzing League 1 in their debut season, were being held to an 8-8 draw on the windswept Cumbrian coast at Barrow.
Marshall was reluctant to read too much into either result, but is well aware the Canadian side - who have trained against Fax twice since their inception - will present a sterner challenge than the Eagles.
“For us, the win was important, because it’s been a while since we experienced that feeling,” said Marshall.
“Confidence comes from within, from those experiences, and you cannot manufacture that.
“But it was also important we improved on what we’d done at Featherstone the previous week and we did that as well.
“With 20 minutes to go there were only six points in it, but we didn’t panic, we didn’t bottle it, we went down their end of the field and closed the game out.
“We’re not kidding ourselves though; we know Toronto will be fitter, bigger, faster and more skilful and they’ll be very motivated after last week.
“We’ve trained against them in opposed sessions twice over the last year or so and they’ve had the better of us on both occasions, if we’re being honest.
“I watched their game at Barrow and I thought it was a really good contest, even though there weren’t a lot of points in it.
“Barrow maybe dealt with the physicality a little bit better, but there were glimpses of the class we know Toronto have; QLT at full back, Beswick’s work around the ruck and Brierley in the halves.
“No one should be writing them off after one game, they’ll be up there at the end of year and we know we’ll need to improve again this weekend if we want to get a result.”
Marshall said he was unlikely to make many changes to the side that downed the Eagles, although at least one alteration will be forced on him, with prop Dan Fleming, a former Toronto player, suspended for one game after being placed on report in round one at Featherstone.
Back rower Shane Grady, who only returned from surgery last weekend, will need to pass the RFL’s new concussion protocol if he wants to play, while half back Ben Johnston looks likely to miss out following James Woodburn-Hall’s promising debut in that position.
Castleford back James Clare seems inline to play on dual-registration for a second successive week while the Tigers, who are without a game this weekend because of the World Club Challenge, could also provide cover for Fleming, with the likes of James Green, who wasn’t selected against Widnes last weekend, or the close-to-fitness Gadwin Springer the obvious potential options.
“We won’t change it too much,” said Marshall, who also took in Wednesday night’s reserve fixture at Wakefield.
“We’ll stick with James at half back; he’s an X Factor player and there weren’t many players in our team who would have scored the try he did.
“I also liked the way he controlled that left edge; I am not writing off Ben (Johnston), and it’s tough on him because he can’t play anywhere else apart from full back, but that’s life.
“I’ll speak to Castleford and see what they can offer us, but I’d like to keep James Clare if we can and maybe see if they have a middle player then can help us with, although I don’t know what they have available.
“We might be struggling to get Shane turned round in time.
“The new head injury rules are pretty strict, as they should be, but it makes it difficult for part time players when they’re trying to fit appointments round work.
“But Ben Heaton wasn’t selected last week, and there are a few forwards in that reserve side - Will Calcott, Sion Jones, Frazer Morris, Jordan Syme - so maybe one of those will put their hands up.
“I’m pretty comfortable with what we have available.”