Betfred Championship R5: Workington vs Sheffield Preview
Sheffield Eagles continue their Betfred Championship road trip this Sunday, travelling up to Cumbria to face newly promoted Workington Town.
After an opening day defeat to Barrow Raiders, the Eagles will be hoping for a more successful journey up north this time around but they won’t be expecting to have it all their own way.
Workington, under the guidance of Chris Thorman, are aiming for survival in their first season back in the Championship. Town are without a win in their first three league matches but they did overcome fellow second tier opposition to progress in the Challenge Cup last weekend.
Last Time Out
Workington booked their place in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup with a 26-12 triumph against Dewsbury at Derwent Park.
Town started the game well and went two scores up inside 15 minutes thanks to tries from Alex Clegg and Declan O’Donnell.
Aaron Hall responded with a try of his own for the Rams but Workington ended the half on top, helped by a Perry Singleton four-pointer and a sin-binning for Dewsbury forward Robson Stevens.
Caine Barnes extended Workington’s advantage with the opening try of the second half before being sin-binned himself with the final quarter approaching.
Matty Beharrell found his way over the whitewash on the hour mark but there wasn’t to be a comeback from the West Yorkshire club, who ended the game a man light due to a yellow card being shown to Jordan Schofield.
Sheffield beat National Conference League’s Hunslet Club Parkside 20-40 at the South Leeds Stadium.
The game was still in the balance with just three minutes to go as Sheffield led by just two points but three quick-fire tries put the result beyond doubt.
Hunslet went ahead twice in the first half, firstly through a Jamie Fields penalty before Kieran Webster and Craig McShane both got on the scoresheet in response to a try from Eagles prop Liam Kirk.
Before the interval, Ryan Johnson and Jason Bass touched down to give Sheffield a slender 12-16 lead at half-time.
Josh Guzdek got the ball rolling in the second half with a close-range try but Parkside certainly weren’t going down without a fight.
Tries from Connor Squires and Will Cohen brought Hunslet to within two points of the Eagles.
However, Evan Hodgson, Ben Jones-Bishop and Johnson all spared Sheffield’s blushes by sealing the victory in the closing stages.
Key Battle - Declan O’Donnell | Vila Halafihi
Plenty of key battles will take place at the weekend but two very shrewd dummy-halves will more than likely start for the respective sides.
Workington received a massive boost with Declan O’Donnell coming back to the club after cutting short his stay at London Broncos.
O’Donnell was a massive part of Town’s promotion push and the Irish international is highly rated by all at the Cumbrian club.
Similar to his counterpart this Sunday, O’Donnell can play at loose forward but his best position is at 9 which is where he has become a fan favourite for Town.
Vila Halafihi has made a good start to life at the Eagles, with 80-minute performances becoming standard for the former Hunslet and Bradford man.
Also showing an adept kicking game from dummy-half, Eagles Director of Rugby Mark Aston has been impressed with the new signing and will hope he can carry on his form as the season goes on.
With Anthony Thackeray possibly returning to the fold this weekend, there won’t be as much pressure on Halafihi to lead the team around but he will certainly be wanting to shoulder some responsibility from hooker.
Tickets are available to buy here, for a cheaper price than match-day so make sure to take advantage of the offer.
By Dan Fowler, photo by Alex Coleman