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Never in doubt! Eagles claim late triumph over Broncos


Sheffield Eagles made it three wins from four games in the 2023 Betfred Championship with a 20-21 victory over London Broncos.

Anthony Thackeray’s drop goal three minutes from time proved to be the difference in a game where the Eagles were under-par.

Director of Rugby Mark Aston handed Evan Hodgson, Connor Bower and Josh Guzdek their first league appearances of the season, replacing Mikey Wood, Aaron Murphy and Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e respectively.

A London knock-on from Cory Aston’s kickoff gifted Sheffield a massive chance to open the scoring in the early stages. Directly from the scrum, Thackeray’s looping ball found Ben Jones-Bishop who acrobatically finished in the corner. Aston’s conversion attempt went wide.

The Eagles’ expansive style would cost them for Broncos’ first score as a loose pass was swept up by Cook Islands flyer Paul Ulberg, who’d dot down under the sticks. Oil Leyland converted.

After the hosts were presented their first try-scoring opportunity, Mike Eccles’ men would return the favour as a knock-on inside the Eagles half was countered by the South Yorkshire side. Quick hands to the right flank set Jones-Bishop away and the winger wouldn’t be caught, Aston added the extras, 6-10 to the Eagles.

On the half-hour, London looked set to regain the lead when Will Lovell made the most of consecutive penalties as the captain barged over. However, Leyland’s conversion attempt from in front hit the post to the surprise of everyone including the Broncos’ PA operator who blared out Chelsea Dagger as the half-back returned to his position.

London ended the half on top as they piled the pressure on with the game’s first goal-line dropout followed by a penalty in relative kicking distance. They decided to tap and go, a wise choice in the end as Sam Davis burrowed over from dummy-half. Leyland converted.

Half-time - London Broncos 16-10 Sheffield Eagles

Ross Oakes continued his stellar early-season form with the opener in the second half on 54 minutes, Aston’s grubber bounced helpfully for the centre, who reached out to score. The half-back couldn’t convert.

Back-to-back penalties for the Broncos put them in great field position as the final quarter approached. Unlike the first period, they decided to opt for the two points. Leyland was successful.

Just under 15 minutes were left on the clock when London got the tee back out for another couple of points. Leyland was on target again, extending the hosts’ lead to six points at 20-14.

Sheffield needed a response, and quick. They got that when Kris Welham plucked a Thackeray kick out of the air before kicking on for Titus Gwaze to touch down. Aston’s conversion levelled the game at 20-all.

With time ticking away, Leyland’s kick forward went dead in-goal which gave the Eagles seven tackles to mount an attack.

Big efforts from the forwards towards the backend of the set laid the platform for Thackeray to chip a drop-goal from 20m out.

A short kickoff from London didn’t bear fruit and the Eagles were home and dry, just.

Full-time - London Broncos 20-21 Sheffield Eagles

By Dan Fowler, photo by Jake Borrill