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Last Updated: Friday, 1 April 2005, 07:59 GMT 08:59 UK
Fallen giants square up in Cup
by Julian Shea

The BBC Sport website has been following the fortunes of one club in the Powergen Challenge Cup since the competition began at the start of January.

But now that West London, South London and Castleford Lock Lane have all fallen by the wayside, the focus is on Halifax.

And after beating one Castleford side in round three, the former Super League side face another in the last 32 after being drawn at home to Castleford Tigers.


Castleford's Brad Davis, in his first spell at the club

As the saying goes, you do not get hurt when you fall only when you land.

Halifax and Castleford are the two most recent clubs to have suffered the bruising fall from Super League to National League One.

Whilst the Tigers have begun life outside the top flight impressively, Halifax only narrowly avoided a second successive relegation by the skin of their teeth last season.

Yet both have been tipped to win a return to the Super League in 2005, which means Sunday's Challenge Cup fourth-round tie could prove a useful form guide for the season.

The fact they are neighbours and have players in their ranks who have played for the opposition just adds to the spice of the encounter.

One man uniquely qualified to appreciate the rivalry is Halifax's Damian Gibson, who was part of last season's relegated Tigers squad but is now in his second spell at The Shay.

He is naturally expecting a full-blooded encounter on Sunday - and not just because of the intense rivalry between the two sides.

"I don't think it's a local thing, it's more because we're both ex-Super League clubs and vying for promotion," he told BBC Sport.

"The Tigers are red hot favourites to win the division and we're up there with them, so it'll be a really big match."

We've got a side capable of scoring points, it's just a matter of holding onto the ball and denying it to them
Halifax's Damian Gibson

Someone certain to be at the centre of the action is Castleford veteran Brad Davis.

But Davis, currently in his second spell at the club, could just as easily have been lining up in the blue and white of Halifax.

"I'd agreed to sign for them but at the last minute Cas made me an offer, " he said.

"It was nothing personal against Halifax but, having had five great years at Cas and seeing the plight that they were in, once they came along there was only one choice I wanted to make.

"It got a bit messy towards the end, and Halifax were totally within their rights not to release me, but it got resolved and I'll be eternally grateful for that."

Davis' return was not enough to save Cas from the drop last season.

But it had a big impact on Halifax. In his absence, they drafted in fellow Australian Ben Black.

His 10 tries in as many games helped them survive the second successive relegation and established the former Wests Tigers player as a crowd favourite at The Shay.

Halifax's Ben Black
Ben Black only joined Halifax because Brad Davis turned them down
"In some respects, Brad leaving worked out really well for the Fax," says Gibson, who has played with both players.

"They're very different. Brad's a great organiser, but Ben's a real individual who can create something out of nothing.

"At the time, there was a lot of bad feeling towards Cas - even though I played for them, I still lived in Halifax and I used to come to their games.

"But in the long term it worked out, as the fans love Ben."

Davis admits he expects some stick from the crowd but nothing too serious.

"I expect a few jeers from their fans, but not too much as I didn't actually play a game for them. And hopefully any boos will just be because we're doing well."

Both sides have undergone major changes since last season, on and off the field in the case of Cas, whose appointment of coach David Woods looks like an inspired choice.

Under his stewardship, they can boast an extremely tight defence and have yet to lose a game.

Although Davis is clearly proud of this record, he is not getting carried away.

"Being an ex-Super League side and still full-time, we're the tall poppies - everyone wants to cut us down," he says.

"Being full-time means we're fitter than most teams, and that's helped us win lot of games in the second half.

"In an ideal world we'd go through a season undefeated, but if we end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, it's important how we react to that - that's a test of character in itself."

Halifax cannot boast a 100% record but have begun the season encouragingly.

And big-tackling Gibson says their attack against the Tigers' defence promises to be an intriguing clash.

"We've got a side capable of scoring points, it's just a matter of holding onto the ball and denying it to them," he says.

"I hope I won't have to make too many tackles though, as I don't want them getting the ball that far down the pitch!"

Local pride and the numerous connections between the teams are sure to make for a passionate clash.

And Gibson says the outcome of Sunday's showdown could set the tone for the rest of the National League season.

"It'll be a good bench mark," he says.

"To play Cas this early in the season will give us an idea of how we measure up and what we need to do to win the division."

Halifax v Castleford, The Shay, Sunday 3 April (1500 BST)




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