2nd February 2018, 22:15
Dewsbury edge past Eagles in season opener
Sheffield Eagles played their part in an enthralling Betfred Championship encounter against Dewsbury Rams but were beaten 20-18 at the Tetley’s Stadium.
Mark Aston’s side fought back from 14-0 down at half-time to take the lead just before the hour mark thanks to tries from Mark Offerdahl, Jake Spedding and Joshua Toole.
However, the sucker punch for the visitors came in the final quarter as Dale Morton scooted past Ben Blackmore to touch down. Paul Sykes converted from the touchline and those two points proved decisive.
Sheffield didn’t get off to the best start as Sykes’ kickoff was gathered before an Eagle was barrelled into touch. A goal line dropout followed for the Rams but Sheffield stood firm and passed their first defensive set.
In the seventh minute, Dewsbury broke the deadlock and that man Sykes was at the heart of the attack. His flat pass connected with centre James Glover who crossed the whitewash. Sykes couldn’t add the extras from the tee.
Sheffield searched for a response but the closest they got came courtesy of Shaun Pick, who was wrapped up on the last by numerous Rams defenders.
Ex-Eagle Rob Worrincy doubled his side’s lead halfway through the first period and Sykes made amends for his earlier miss as he kicked over the extras.
Just three minutes before half-time, Dewsbury extended their lead further after an Eagles error.
Dom Speakman exploited poor ruck defence as he dummied his way over the line. Sykes was off target with the conversion.
Sheffield almost registered their first try on the last tackle of the opening 40 minutes but Jack Ashworth’s try was ruled out for a forward pass.
The tide started to turn from the start of the second half as the hosts knocked on from kickoff. Despite not scoring in the ensuing set, the Eagles were smelling blood.
James Bentley won a penalty for Sheffield which took them within striking distance. And strike they did.
USA captain Offerdahl barged over from close range in the 48th minute and Oscar Thomas added the two points from in front of the sticks.
Just a few sets later came Sheffield’s second try of the match. Toole had the nous to get over from an unusual dummy-half position and when Thomas pinged over the conversion, there was only two points between the teams.
The comeback was complete on 58 minutes as St Helens duo James Bentley and Spedding combined with some lovely play as the latter crossed. Thomas, yet again, added the extras for a 14-18 lead.
But Sheffield let their guard down immediately after taking the lead, knocking on inside their own half and giving Dewsbury a great chance to go back ahead.
They did just that when Morton sprinted past Blackmore to score in the corner. To add to the visitors’ misery, Sykes converted and Dewsbury were in front.
Following Morton’s four-pointer, there wasn’t many clear cut opportunities for either side. Cory Aston launched a cross-field kick towards the Dewsbury winger after Sheffield made good yards but the eventual match-winner was equal to the task.
A valiant effort by the Eagles, who will go into next week’s match at Halifax with a bit of confidence and belief.
Report by Dan Fowler, photo by Alex Coleman