Halifax coach Karl Harrison identified the two first half brawls that temporarily saw both sides reduced to 11 men as the tipping point in Sunday’s 36-28 loss to table toppers Leigh.
The home side looked on course for victory when they led 24-0 after half an hour but two outbreaks of fighting in quick succession, the first involving Leigh’s former Halifax player Sam Barlow, saw referee Chris Leatherbarrow issue yellow cards to Barlow and his teammate Jamie Acton as well as Fax pair Andy Bracek and Tony Tonks.
Barlow, who was booed every time he touched the ball, then scored a scrambled try seconds after returning to the fray before the half time hooter - sparking a comeback which saw the visitors go 36-24 ahead - before being red carded for punching Fax wingman Gareth Potts as he was substituted with around 30 minutes remaining.
“They started two brawls and they got momentum off the back of that,” said Harrison, who declined to discuss Leatherbarrow’s performance.
“I thought they were probably premeditated to be honest, but that’s my opinion.
“In the end, the sending off probably worked in their favour; I thought they played better with 12 than with 13.
“I didn’t know why Barlow was sent off until afterwards, when I found out it was because he had allegedly hit someone coming off the field.
“I don’t want to talk about the referee, but we certainly got some tough calls.
“I thought we played exceptionally well in the first half, but we came out a little bit slowly in the second; what we’d done to them, they did to us.
“We found it hard to get possession of the ball again. It’s certainly disappointing, frustrating, but that’s the way the game is sometimes.”