Sean Long: Featherstone Rovers ‘lacked composure' in Challenge Cup defeat to Halifax Panthers
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Fev had made an exceptional start to the season with five wins out of five - including a 46-22 victory over the Panthers in round two of the Championship campaign.
And they were looking for a second successive Challenge Cup triumph over Simon Grix’s men as well having beaten them in last season’s competition.
However, after an edgy performance in last Monday’s nervy win over Bradford Bulls, Rovers were second best against a Fax side who won an entertaining, yet attritional contest 18-22, thanks to tries from Matty Gee, Lachlan Walmsley, Tom Inman and Louis Jouffret.
“Very disappointing to go out,” an unhappy Long said after the game. “We wanted a good run at it. But I thought we started the game how we finished the Bradford game. We lacked any composure, we lacked a bit of effort and there were some individual errors.”
He added: “I just think that we gave Halifax too much ball. Halifax are a good attacking team and if you are completing at 55 per cent, I don’t care who you are playing, Crusaders or Thatto Heath, you’re going to be in for a game.
“We didn’t really play our style. We defended okay in patches but we just gave ourselves too much defending to do. It’s a tough one to take, especially as it’s our first loss but we have got to learn from this and move on.”
Asked if he thought Grix and the Halifax coaching team would have taken any confidence from Bradford’s performance against Rovers in their previous game, Long responded:
“100 per cent. Coaches look at weaknesses and maybe they targeted a side. The lads made some uncharacteristic errors in that game against Bradford and it has just spilled into this game.
“Halifax are well coached, they are a good team and they will have definitely watched that game and gone, ‘we’re targeting this side or whatever.’
“Full credit to Halifax because I thought they were the better team.”
On the players that were missing, Long said:
“We have got a few players missing and I think that cost us a little bit regarding our half-backs. We just lacked composure when we got down to the other end of the field.
“Normally we are quite good at that. Ultimately, we did have a team out there which was good enough to win that game.
“Riley Dean has been really good for us this year, nice and calm, nice and composed, and controls the game. I think that is what we lacked. The sending off with five minutes to go summed it up for us - a bit of frustration crept into our game.”
Long had a distinguished career as a player and won rugby league’s most famous trophy five times with St Helens and he admitted he wants to make “memories” in the competition as a coach. He said:
“You know how good and how special the Challenge Cup is, so to go out at the first hurdle is disappointing. We were just beaten by the better team.
“I have had some really good memories in the Challenge Cup but I have not had any as a coach, so that’s a disappointing thing. I want some memories in this competition as a coach.
“It just wasn’t to be today.”