Betfred Championship R9: Sheffield vs Newcastle Preview
Sheffield Eagles play host to Newcastle Thunder at the Millennium Stadium, Featherstone, on Friday night in round nine of the Betfred Championship.
The Eagles go into the contest after a brilliant second half performance against London Broncos earned Mark Aston’s side victory over the relegation contenders.
Meanwhile, Newcastle were convincingly beaten at York City Knights but the full-time outfit know that a victory over the Eagles will propel them above the South Yorkshire club into fifth place.
Last Time Out
Sheffield beat London 30-10, despite only being two points up at the half-time interval.
Quentin Laulu-Togagae’s opener was converted by Izaac Farrell but the Broncos responded courtesy of Sitiveni Moceidrake. Dane Chisholm’s conversion attempt went wide, but the former Eagle made amends in the second period as a penalty goal levelled the scores.
Jermaine Coleman’s men couldn’t push on to threaten a first league victory though as the hosts took a foothold.
QLT completed his double before Anthony Thackeray scored an impressive hat-trick to really take the game away from the capital club.
He finished off a fine team move for his first score before intercepting a Chisholm pass to complete his brace.
The hat-trick try, which is nominated for the Our League Try of the Week, saw Thackeray on the end of a Ben Jones-Bishop offload before streaking to the line.
London got the final four-pointer of the contest through Iliess Macani.
Newcastle were on the receiving end of a 38-6 scoreline at the LNER Community Stadium against York.
Thunder were 22-0 down at the break after tries for Jordan Thompson, Ronan Dixon, James Glover and AJ Towse.
Masi Matongo and Towse extended the hosts’ lead in the second period before Brad Gallagher notched Newcastle’s only try of the afternoon.
Joe Brown rounded off a great day at the office for James Ford’s side with the last try of the match, ten minutes from time.
Key Battle - Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e | Jack Johnson
The return of QLT to the Eagles has proved to be a positive move for both parties. The full-back, with bucketloads of experience on his side, made an impressive two-try debut against Whitehaven and hasn’t looked back since.
His link-up play with the likes of scrum-half Anthony Thackeray will have been noted by opposition teams moving forward but it’s not just on the attacking front where QLT is valued.
He is always barking out orders from the back of the pitch and that sort of know-how is what Mark Aston will have wanted from the 37-year-old, who was brought back to the club following the shoulder injury to Josh Guzdek.
QLT’s opposite number on Friday night will more than likely be Jack Johnson.
Johnson was a key part of Thunder’s victory over Sheffield last year at Kingston Park and coach Eamon O’Carroll will be asking for a similar impact this week.
Also capable of playing on the wing, Johnson originally came through the Warrington Wolves system and has had spells with Rochdale Hornets, Widnes Vikings and Featherstone Rovers.
As a full-time side, Thunder will be wanting to capitalise on their professional status by putting on a polished performance against the Eagles.
Johnson will be looking to chime into the attacking line and if he has broken field to run into, it could spell trouble for the hosts.
Match tickets are available from eagles.mysportstickets.co.uk.
This is the final ‘home’ game on the road for Sheffield before the return to the Steel City, at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, on Monday 23rd May against Widnes Vikings.
Tickets will be available for that game, from the Eagles’ ticketing site, in the coming days.
By Dan Fowler, graphic by Alex Coleman