Challenge Cup reaction: Halifax Panthers’ ‘togetherness’ in stunning Featherstone win pleases Simon Grix
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You have to go all the way back to 2017 since Fax were victorious at the Millennium Stadium - a game in which Grix, himself, starred in. They failed, miserably, in round two of the 2023 season with Fev going onto win their opening five league games.
But Grix’s men upset the odds and produced a fantastic cup upset to clinch a memorable 18-22 success and progress into Wednesday’s fourth round draw.
After the game, a delighted Grix said:
“It’s a good win coming up against the Championship big boys. We haven’t won here since I was playing, in 2017. I had almost forgotten what it was like to get some success here.
“I am really happy with the result, although I thought we did it the hard way. For both sides there were some absolute calamities in and amongst, and it was odd to be fair.
“But I thought our togetherness was where it needed to be; I talk about winning in 2017 - that is what that team was like. We weren’t as good as this team and we were certainly not as talented as this team that we have got now but we had some togetherness - blokes you would have happily have had in the trenches with.
“Everyone is expecting Fev to come and win today and rightly so based on our last performance here a few weeks ago. I don’t like using the term free hit but we came here with the idea in mind of not worrying about the scoreboard and just worry about the performance.
“I think we definitely got that. We showed enough togetherness at the right times and some quality at the right end of the field. From 1 to 17 I thought they all had a really good dig. It wasn’t all perfect by any means but they all had a dig.
“We showed that togetherness a little bit against Batley and we have backed that up today with some really tough stuff. Hopefully this will give us more confidence now going into next week against Keighley.”
Featherstone’s unbeaten start to the season was nearly broken last Monday evening against Bradford Bulls, but Sean Long’s men, just about, edged a nervy encounter.
And Grix has offered some advice to other head coaches in the division. He said:
“They are beatable but you have got to be at the races. In the first half we completed quite well but in the second half both sides were really poor.
“For those of us who have the ambition to beat them, you have to be somewhere near your best and everyone has got to be on it.
“When you take the game tit-for-tat and take them to a place they don’t go every week and get to that 60 minute mark, then you’re in it.
“Although they have got blokes missing, which everyone will allude to, they pay for the right to be able to fill them spots with quality when people are injured.
“Matty Wildie is no slouch and neither is Thomas Lacans - he is a very good player. Fev still had enough to beat most teams today so I am not going to take anything off our win by what they had on the team sheet as it was a really good win for us.
“Also, training didn’t exist this week as we had a foot and a half of snow where we are so we didn’t even get on the field which is mad because the lads will think they can have the week off every week now! We did get together but we didn’t get the usual sort of work done.”
On match-winner, and man of the match, Louis Jouffret, Grix said:
“Enigmatic. If you watch Louis a lot you will know that his running game is his real strength. Generalising, blokes with 6 or 7 on their backs sometimes think they are just there to dish the ball on when really, they need to run with the ball.
“He took his try really well but it was probably there for him a number of times in the game but he chose to pass instead. You have just got to keep pushing that confidence with him and getting him carrying the ball.”
Grix also admitted his pleasure for Jacob Fairbank being able to celebrate his 200th appearance for the club with a victory, while also revealing that Jake Maizen played despite being ill.
“I am really happy for Bob,” Grix said. “We have had a few milestone games go by and we haven’t come out on the right side of the scoreline. He put on a pretty gutsy performance and it probably reflects the kind of player he is and the type of bloke you want to be in the trenches with.”
He added: “Jake Maizen was ill as a dog. I thought it was just travel sickness but I think it was probably a bit more than that. He was as flat as a pancake today.
“He didn’t really get much done but we needed him to stay out there and do his job.
“Obviously, losing backs is hard to deal with and we don’t have a utility-type so it makes life a little bit more difficult. Even though he wasn’t great he managed to punch out 80 minutes feeling pretty dreadful so I am happy for him.”