Rugby League: Eagles' intelligence questioned by angry coach

Halifax Blue Sox 18 Sheffield Eagles 16

Halifax welcomed their new coach, John Pendlebury, with a first win of the season, but they had to sweat for it throughout a sometimes scrappy but always absorbing struggle at Thrum Hall yesterday.

John Schuster has won so many games for Halifax with his kicking that it is churlish to say that this was one they won despite him. His miss from an easy position at Wigan denied Halifax a draw last week and he managed only one from six attempts.

In the end, those omissions were outweighed by Sheffield's mistakes in the second half, which led their coach, Phil Larder, to describe them as "one of the thickest sets of players I've ever been involved with."

Sheffield committed enough blunders to justify both that uncharitable description and the full scale roasting Larder gave them at full time. The one thing he could not fault was their effort.

During the first half it seemed their commitment might be enough to swing the game their way, as they led through tries from Keith Senior and John Lawless, a former Halifax player, plus three goals from Mark Aston against Halifax tries from Simon Baldwin and Fereti Tuilagi.

But Schuster kicked his only goal early in the second half and Martin Moana then exploited some Sheffield hesitancy to skirt around their defence for a fine individual try.

By that time, Aston was in the sin bin following a scuffle with Mike Umaga and he was only just back on the field when Martin Pearson sent in Baldwin for a match-clinching second try.

An Aston penalty brought Sheffield within two points, but late attacks from Martin Wood and Whetu Taewa that could have brought a winning try came to nothing.

Pendlebury was making no great claims for the assurance of the victory. "But it is was important for confidence that we got the right result today," he said.

With that confidence and four more home matches in a row, Halifax can still turn their start to the season into a most encouraging one. As for Sheffield, Larder seemed to feel it will need intensive education or brain transplants.

Halifax Blue Sox: Umaga; Tuilagi, Schuster, Amone, Bouveng; Pearson, Parker; Harrison, Rowley, W Jackson, Baldwyn, M Jackson, Moana. Substitutes used: Clarke, Gillespie, Chester, Skerrett.

Sheffield Eagles: Stott; Taewa, Pinkney, Senior, Garcia; Doyle, Aston; Broadbent, Lawless, Laughton, Carr, McAllister, Wood. Substitutes used: Mycoe, Morganson, Edmed, Dixon.

Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).

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