El Masri's magnificent hat-trick

Halifax 22 Canterbury 40

After what they endured in Australia, this almost amounted to a return to respectability for Halifax. Although threatened with being overrun on occasions, they settled for a defeat at Thrum Hall yesterday which, while comprehensive enough, fell well short of the humiliations to which they have become accustomed in the World Club Championship.

It began as ominously as any of Halifax's three thrashings Down Under, with Canterbury racking up three tries and two goals at the rate of a point a minute. Worse than that, their tries were so simple and routine that it seemed certain that there would be many more to follow.

Halifax, however, dug in, pulled one try back when Simon Baldwin took a pass from Michael Jackson to race over and could have scored another had Martin Moana not been caught in possession.

Immediately before half-time, however, the two outstanding contributors to Canterbury's cause combined, the lively young hooker, Robert Mears, getting the ball away for Hazem El Masri to score the first of his hat- trick.

Mears burrowed over himself early in the second half, but David Bouveng took Martin Pearson's high kick to keep Halifax vaguely in touch.

They could have been better placed had it not been for the razor-sharp opportunism of El Masri. The Lebanese winger scooped up a loose ball to go 60 yards for his second but, after Daio Powell and Paul Highton had gone over for further Halifax tries, he saved the best for last.

This time El Masri picked up the ball just 10 yards from his own try line, sidestepped his way through, found Barry Berrigan and Daryl Halligan in support before taking the ball again for one of the best tries this competition will produce.

"Halifax showed a lot more commitment than last time we played them," the Canterbury coach, Chris Anderson, said. Not enough, though, to spoil his return to a club he led to both Cup and League victories in the 1980s.

"There was an improvement - the scoreline suggested that - but it was not a good enough improvement," the Halifax coach, John Pendlebury, said.

Halifax: Umaga; Tuiligi, Schuster, Powell, Bouveng; Pearson, Chester; Harrison, Seal, Boothroyd, Highton, Jackson, Baldwin. Substitutes used: Moana, Dean, O'Loughlin, Amone.

Canterbury: Silva; Halligan, Timu, Norton, El Masri; Hughess, Berrigan; Price, Mears, Pickering, Relf, Haumono, Reardon. Substitutes used: Newton, Ward.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).