A sublime Sheffield return for the Eagles
Back in the city on a permanent basis for the first time since 2013, Sheffield Eagles were making up for lost time with a 34-24 victory over Widnes Vikings at the Olympic Legacy Park.
The scoreline certainly doesn’t tell the full story thanks to a couple of late Widnes consolations but even that couldn’t spoil the party atmosphere at the OLP.
A two-point lead at the half-time interval ballooned into 22 as the Eagles scored four tries in the space of 11 minutes to all but seal victory.
The pick of the second half scores coming from Izaac Farrell, who burst past a defender before leaving the full-back in his wake.
Mark Aston loaded his bench with heavy artillery against the Vikings, naming four prop forwards - two of those, Yusuf Aydin and Isaac Shaw, coming from Wakefield Trinity on dual-registration.
Vila Halafihi missed out with a knee injury sustained in training, Tom Holmes was given a starting role at hooker where he would play the full 80 minutes.
The homecoming atmosphere was at fever pitch as the two teams entered the field, with pyrotechnics and a boisterous crowd greeting the players.
The match itself didn’t go the way Sheffield were expecting in the opening eight minutes as they conceded tries to Lloyd Roby and Sam Wilde. Steve Tyrer’s two conversions put Widnes 12-0 up and the travelling support were in fine voice.
That fine voice didn’t last though, as the Eagles started to get a foothold in the contest and their expansive play saw both wingers cross for tries,
Ben Jones-Bishop scored the club’s first try back in the city, assisted by a marvellous cut-out ball from Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e. Jason Bass followed up with a four-pointer of his own as the Eagles executed a scrum play to perfection. Izaac tagged on both conversions and also kicked a penalty goal later in the half to give the hosts a slender advantage.
Half-time - Sheffield Eagles 14-12 Widnes Vikings
If Mark Aston had to dream of a ten-minute period where his side were utterly dominant, even this may have been a bit too far-fetched.
Kris Welham’s acrobatic finish in the corner was the catalyst, albeit the conversion attempt from Izaac went wide.
The restart set saw Sheffield force Widnes into conceding a goal line dropout, that pressure was soon capitalised on as Bass streaked to the whitewash for his second try of the evening. Izaac didn’t convert but he soon had the kicking tee back out.
After a solid defensive effort, the Eagles made great yardage up the middle with Joel Farrell wreaking havoc on the Widnes rearguard. Aston’s men weren’t going to fix what wasn’t broken, Mikey Wood set sail and the big man couldn’t be stopped. Izaac converted for a 28-12 lead before the half-back helped himself to a try of his own.
Throwing a slight feint, Izaac made his way through the Vikings defence before stepping past the full-back with consummate ease. The extras were soon added and it was party time in the stand.
To their credit, the visitors didn’t throw in the towel and they sent their fans home with two second half tries to celebrate courtesy of Danny Craven and Ryan Ince. Tyrer converted both.
Full-time - Sheffield Eagles 34-24 Widnes Vikings
A victory that will live long in the memory - not for the opponents or even the context of the season. Just for the fact the Eagles are home again and that is a victory in itself.
By Dan Fowler, photo by Alex Coleman