Selection choices pay dividends for Marshall as Barber, Woodburn-Hall take their chances

Snow way through for Eagles dangerman Cory Aston as Steve Tyrer closes in
Snow way through for Eagles dangerman Cory Aston as Steve Tyrer closes in

Coach Richard Marshall’s selection decisions paid off as a much-improved Halifax grabbed their first Championship points of 2018, cruising to a 30-10 win over Sheffield at the Shay.

Marshall made a raft of changes to the team that lost out 20-8 at Featherstone on the opening day for the clash with Mark Aston’s Eagles.

On loan prop Dan Murray, drafted in from Super League outfit Salford, made an immediate impact with two tries, while another temporary recruit, Castleford forward Will Maher, atoned for a low key start to his Fax career with a strong showing from the bench.

Arguably though, it was two positional changes that paid the biggest dividends, with Ed Barber, who moved from back row to centre, and James Woodburn-Hall, who got a long-awaited chance to play in his favoured half back role, both posting eye catching performances.

Both scored tries, with Barber also laying on the fifth and final score for prop Dan Fleming as Fax eased home amid blizzard conditions.

“Barber impressed me; I think he surprises himself sometimes, but he’s a skilful player and he can step up this season into that group of players that lead the team,” said Marshall, whose side led 12-6 at the break before closing out the game in the second half.

“I was pleased with James and thought we might end up talking about that; he compliments Scott Murrell, he took the defence on near the line and he put some nice little plays on.

“He did add to us and there’s something to work on there.

“He wants to play half back and have more influence on the team and we might look at that over the next few weeks.

“It’s a fair call and a fair assessment to say they improved the balance of the team.

“I was pleased with the guys who’ve not been with us for long as well.

“Maher was strong off the bench and Murray was fantastic; he did the hard yards and he showed up when it counts near the opposition line.

“He’s got good feet, he’s strong and he runs a good line.”

With the full-time challenge of Toronto looming at the Shay next week, Marshall was mindful that there is still plenty of work to be done.

“We were after an improvement; we spoke a lot about the areas that let us down last week and we fixed a couple of those up,” he said.

“Not all of them; it wasn’t perfect and there’s a lot to come.

“Conditions were tough. It was a good, old fashioned rugby league game.

“We were up to standard in defence; there were those six sets of tackles before half time when we held them out, which is the sign of a good team.

“The players’ efforts, for each other and for the team, were fantastic but I’m not ecstatic.

“We need to start having more respect for what we’re trying to do with the ball.

“At our best, we’re ruthless in defence; we’re not ruthless in offence.”