Derby clash ends early after depleted Rhinos Wheelchair side count cost of injuries

Halifax Panthers kicked off their season and laid down a marker with double weekend home victories over Leeds and Wigan at Calderdale College. The sensational derby clash with the Rhinos sadly ended prematurely though after two of the visiting players, Jodie Boyd-Ward and Ewan Clibbens – who attempted to valiantly play on despite a dislocated shoulder – could not continue, needing hospital treatment.

Panthers were leading 52-44 at the time in an always intense contest; the hosts superbly led by Rob Hawkins who crossed for four tries and landed eight goals. French international Jeremy Boursin also claimed four tries for the Panthers, Nathan Holmes with their other touchdown as they led 40-32 at the break.

Nathan Collins claimed 20 points for the Rhinos from two tries and six goals, with all their players scoring as a comeback was launched to lead 44-40 early in the second period. Tom Halliwell and Boyd-Ward crossed for two tries apiece, with Clibbens and James Simpson also scoring as despite the injuries and playing the majority of the game with just 5 fit players, the Rhinos were unable to hold onto their unbeaten streak at the hands of a strong Halfiax side.

Speaking after the game, Coach James Simpson said: “It’s not a disappointing defeat, I wouldn’t say that’s the right word. We came in with no interchanges due to illness and suspensions so we knew it was going to be tough and I’m so proud of how we fought. As soon as Ewan went off with his dislocated shoulder, the four of us on the pitch all reacted and we kept playing.

“Nobody likes to lose but under the circumstances and to take the lead was real testament to all our efforts. We’d have ideally kept playing on, but when Jodie took the hit, she’s a tough cookie and you could see it was a bad injury. I’ve never seen anything like that before and so we had to make a decision, which I think was the right one in the end because I have to put my players first, they’re my priority.”

England international Hawkins continued in fine form the following day against Wigan Warriors, bagging 36 points from five tries and eight goals in another close victory, 76-64, after an end-to-end encounter.

Sebastien Bechara and Thomas Martin both added a brace of Panthers tries, Wayne Boardman also getting over, whilst Boursin kicked four goals and Holmes one. For the Warriors, Martin Norris posted four tries, Declan Roberts with 20 points from two tries and six goals. Matt Wooloff, Jack Heggie and Adam Rigby all crossed twice for the visitors.

Thankfully both Jodie and Ewan returned home after going to the hospital for precautionary checks and they will hopefully make a speedy recovery. The Rhinos will now hope to bounce back this weekend when they host Hull FC Wheelchair RL at the Leeds Beckett Sports Arena in Headingley, on Sunday 3rd April.