Halifax coach Richard Marshall spoke of his pride in his players’ efforts after they lost 22-8 at 2016 Challenge Cup and Super League Grand Finalists Warrington.
Fax, rated at 50/1 by some bookmakers to register their first win in the Qualifiers at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, held a near full-strength Wolves outfit to 4-4 at the break and only trailed 10-8 with 15 minutes remaining.
A try from winger Matty Russell and a last-gasp score from NRL-bound Andre Savelio saved the blushes of Tony Smith’s star-studded line up, but there was plenty for Marshall to enthuse about against his hometown club.
“Proud is probably the word, I’m a proud coach today,” said Marshall, who never played for the Cheshire side after signing for Fax as a junior but worked as one of Smith’s assistant coaches before taking the Shay job three years ago.
“I think we had an opportunity to win the game though, with a couple of smarter decisions in the half we might have got across the line a couple of times.
“We perhaps forced the pass a bit, but we had to; they were in the Grand Final last year and they’ve got some world class players.
“I thought our attitude and our willingness to defend for each other was world class today, that was outstanding.
“We didn’t win the game, but we got a few wins within the performance.
“The players did exactly what they said they were going to do, which goes a long way with me.
“I watched Warrington last week against Catalans and they were very good and when they put out such a strong side, you know it’s going to go the wrong way if you don’t turn up.
“In terms of effort and enthusiasm, we were the better team.
“We dealt with a lot of their threats and big players and we scrambled like hell for each other.
“I feel like it was a winnable game and we need to look at how and why we didn’t win it.
“We didn’t manage to do that against Widnes after a great performance at Hull KR, so we need to learn the lessons from that before we play Catalans at home in a couple of weeks.
“I think it will have done us a lot of good to have gone toe to toe with a team like that though.
“But we’re on zero points, where we were at the start of the Qualifiers and we’ve got some tough games to come.”
Young winger Chester Butler, who replaced Ben Heaton, scored twice on a rare first team appearance, while James Saltonstall looked sharp at full back on his return from long-term injury.
“Chester found out he was playing on Friday when Ben pulled out,” said Marshall.
“He was strong and he’ll have got some confidence from that.
“We also lost James Woodburn-Hall with an ankle injury very early on, so with 16 players and probably four or five front line players absent we’ve done okay.
“I thought James was good at the back and we went up against their pack, despite lacking a bit of size.
“Young Elliot Morris has been good all year; he gets his nose through the line and he’s got an offload in his game.”