11th March 2018, 19:45
Eagles homecoming dashed by wily Wolfpack
Sheffield Eagles started life back in the Steel City with a 44-10 defeat against Toronto Wolfpack at the Olympic Legacy Park.
The Canadians were in the lead from the 20th minute and the Eagles couldn’t find a way to get a foothold in the contest.
Richard Whiting and Jonny Pownall both notched braces for the visitors while ex-Eagle Quentin Laulu-Togagae shone from full-back.
Matt James and Iliess Macani marked their side’s return to Sheffield with a try apiece but Mark Aston’s men were handed a fifth successive defeat in the Betfred Championship.
Aston brought in St Helens outside back Matthew Costello for his debut in Red and Gold while Shaun Pick, who started in the front-row, was up against his former employers.
The match was on an even keel throughout the opening quarter as neither side could find the opening try.
Sheffield launched their first meaningful attack in the sixth minute as they took advantage of a Toronto knock-on. James Bentley latched on to a loose ball and kicked forward to the Wolfpack’s 20m line before a defender sweeped up the danger.
Toronto went close soon after but the Eagles stood tall in defence and managed to force Jack Buchanan to fumble possession.
Unfortunately for the hosts, Toronto soon had their first try on 21 minutes and it came courtesy of Liam Kay who was played over the line by Laulu-Togagae. Ryan Brierley couldn’t convert.
Toronto ramped up the pressure and managed to extend their advantage with two tries in quick succession. Forwards Whiting and Adam Sidlow both touched down and Brierley converted twice to make amends for his earlier miss.
Sheffield were not going to finish the half without any reward of their own, though.
James led from the front and powered over the line after a swift pass from fellow prop Kieran Moran. Oscar Thomas converted and the Eagles went into the break just 10 points behind at 6-16.
Shortly after the restart, Toronto capitalised on a penalty by crossing the whitewash through Nick Rawsthorne. Brierley converted.
The Wolfpack had their tails up and, just as they did in the first half, scored two quick-fire tries to put the game beyond Sheffield.
Firstly, try-scorer Whiting turned provider with a deft grubber for Blake Wallace to collect - minutes before Pownall was the beneficiary of an Eagles knock-on as he walked over.
Two Brierley goals made the score 6-34.
Pownall and Whiting completed their braces in the final quarter, the latter after Sheffield were reduced to 12 men due to a shoulder charge by James. Brierley added one conversion.
The final say on a historical afternoon for the Eagles went to the hosts themselves. Jake Spedding produced a sublime pass to Macani, who did the rest. Cory Aston couldn’t convert.
The Eagles are back in action on Sunday when they travel to Barrow Raiders for the Challenge Cup.
By Dan Fowler, photo by Alex Coleman