Eagles bash Bulls in Championship season opener
Sheffield Eagles started their 2021 Betfred Championship season with a thumping 50-12 demolition of Bradford Bulls.
Braces for Anthony Thackeray, James Glover and Aaron Brown were the catalyst to victory, with Joel Farrell, Izaac Farrell, Ryan Millar and Josh Guzdek all getting on the scoresheet too.
Eagles Director of Rugby Mark Aston made one change from the side beaten by York City Knights two weeks ago, as James Davey replaced Robbie Ward on the interchange bench.
It didn’t take long for the hosts to break the deadlock - four minutes to be precise - as Brown got on the end of a Thackeray kick and had a free run to the line. Izaac Farrell was on kicking duties for most of the afternoon and was successful with his first conversion attempt.
Things got better for the Eagles, who were showing their expansive style in the opening stages of the first period, when full-back Guzdek strolled over. Farrell hit the post from the tee.
The Thackeray-Brown combo proved lethal again on 24 minutes, the half-back chipping over the top for the loose forward to collect and score. Farrell added the extras for 16-0.
Glover got in on the act as half-time approached with a powerful effort from close range. Farrell, for a second time, booted egg on to woodwork.
Farrell Snr in this game, Joel, extended Sheffield’s advantage as they looked to put the game beyond Bradford’s reach.
Rob Worrincy and Millar combined on the right flank and almost coughed up possession after making 40 metres but the former was first to the loose ball.
The following play saw the Eagles spread play to the opposite flank, where Farrell was the grateful recipient and did enough to beat his opposite number. Farrell Jnr missed the conversation.
With ten seconds remaining in the first half, and 24 points up, it may have been easier for the hosts to wind down the clock and take a couple of tackles.
Instead they went in at half-time 28 points to the good as Thackeray - from inside his own half - chipped over the Bulls defence for Glover who had enough pace to complete his double. Farrell’s conversion effort strayed wide.
Half-time - Sheffield Eagles 28-0 Bradford Bulls
“More of the same” will have been the call from Aston at half-time and he’ll have been impressed just eight minutes after the restart.
Thackeray made a clean break and Oliver Davies was there for company, the second-rower received the pass and set up Farrell Jnr to jink his way past a Bull and over the try-line. He turned four points into six with the conversion.
A bit of scrappy play from both sides wasn’t ideal and that allowed Bradford to get some sort of foothold for a short time.
Two tries in as many minutes, courtesy of Adam Rooks and Joe Brown, put Bradford four scores behind with just over 20 minutes to go. Danny Brough was on hand to kick the conversions.
The Bulls were showing newfound spirit and kept knocking on the door for a third try but a pass intercepted by Thackeray knocked the wind out of their sails. The scrum-half, although not the quickest anymore, never looked like being caught. Farrell couldn’t convert but Sheffield were breathing easier at 38-12.
Farrell and Glover combined to send Thackeray over on 66 minutes, with the former adding the extras.
Farrell Snr and Brough took a seat in the sin-bin for the last ten minutes of the game after a few handbags.
The final try of the afternoon was on 78 minutes after Worrincy was fed down the right flank by Brown and he in-turn sent Millar on his way to dot down by the sticks. Glover took over the kicking duties and had the easiest one of the day. 50-up for Sheffield and a brilliant day at the office.
Full-time - Sheffield Eagles 50-12 Bradford Bulls
Eagles XIII - Guzdek (1T), Worrincy, Johnson, Glover (2T, 1G), Millar (1T); I Farrell (1T, 4G), Thackeray (2T); Knowles, G Burns, James; J Farrell (1T), Davies, Brown (2T).
Interchange - Davey, Dickinson, Broadbent, P Burns
Bulls XIII - Brown (1T), Hamlett, R Evans, Oakes, Sanderson, Pickersgill, Brough (2G; Crossley, Doyle, Fleming; Gallagher, Rooks (1T), Murphy
Interchange - Scurr, Nzoungou, Jowitt, B Evans
By Dan Fowler, photo by Alex Coleman