JON SHARP'S first match as Giants coach ended in a 32-22 friendly defeat at Halifax yesterday, but the new boss insisted he was more than happy with his young players.
With an average age of 18 and only Eorl Crabtree, Paul White, Matthew Whittaker and new recruit from Rochdale Paul Smith able to boast any real experience at senior level, the line-up at The Shay bore no resemblance to that which will start the opening Super League clash at home to Castleford on Sunday, February 22.
Even so, Sharp believes the Infirmary Cup showdown, which was watched by 2,208 and featured a 14-point show by impressive scrum half White (two tries and three goals), was a useful exercise.
"I was looking forward to seeing the young lads play, and while we were a little rusty, I was pleased with what I saw," said Sharp, who also saw centres Ben Feehan and Tom Senior touch down.
"I thought the half-time score (22-0 to Halifax) flattered them, because we created quite a few chances.
"It was disappointing to concede two soft tries from dummy half, because tryline defence is something we practice regularly, and that has highlighted a deficiency we must work on.
"But at half-time, I challenged the players to win the second half, and they went out and outscored Halifax 22-10, which was very encouraging."
Sharp praised White, skipper-for-the- day Crabtree and Smith, the only one of his five new signings to figure.
"The full-timers showed some good progression and development of things we have been working on," he added.
"Eorl will have been disappointed to concede a penalty from which they scored a try, but he led from the front and asked questions of their defence.
"Paul White is blessed with pace, and will always test a tiring defence, and I thought he was tremendous.
"You could say Paul Smith is a project to work on, and having come out of National I, he needs to move up to Super League level, but the skill and hunger is there and he will be a good player."
Halifax announced that Jamie Bloem, who played for the Giants last season, will be their captain as they bid to make an immediate return to Super League.
He succeeds another ex-Giants player, hooker Johnny Lawless, who has retired and made a farewell appearance as a 73rd-minute substitute yesterday.