Eagles complete Haven treble
SHEFFIELD EAGLES 38
Dan Fowler for League Express, Olympic Legacy Park, Sunday
SHEFFIELD EAGLES had to survive a scare against Whitehaven as three tries in the last 12 minutes helped them to victory.
It was a game where neither side really took a stranglehold for long periods as both hit each other with everything they had in their armoury.
Anthony Thackeray scored a brace for the Eagles, his second coming at an important time as the hosts - with a numerical advantage due to Liam McAvoy’s sin-binning - took a lead that they wouldn’t lose.
Whitehaven, despite going home empty-handed, can be positive about their attacking performance with Andrew Bulman and Karl Dixon both notching braces.
Sheffield opened the scoring after just five minutes as their talisman Thackeray got himself over the whitewash once again. Leaving himself 19 points short of a career 1000 - an achievement which would get even closer later in the afternoon - the scrum-half and Eagles captain used his footwork and pace to good effect as he burst through the Haven defence to touch down. Josh Guzdek missed the rather easy-looking conversion.
The Cumbrians’ response was emphatic. The Eagles are used to their scrum plays from deep inside their opposition’s half but it was Whitehaven’s turn on this occasion. Bulman levelled matters with a well worked try before Nikau Williams converted from the touchline to put Jonty Gorley’s men ahead for the first time.
Things got better for the visitors soon after when Bulman, already full of confidence after his Summer Bash brace, added his second try of the day. A knock-on from Sheffield set the Haven attack alight, throwing the ball wide on the zero tackle for Will Evans to make a break and he had his wing-man in support to go over under the sticks. Williams’ conversion was a formality to extend his side’s lead to two scores.
Sheffield left it late in the half to turn the scoreline on its head. It was the centres who were at the forefront with Ryan Johnson and Kris Welham both crossing. Johnson’s effort was a superb individual effort, grubbering to himself and grounding successfully, while the score on the other flank came courtesy of two passes as Tom Holmes found winger Matty Chrimes with a bullet and the ex-Hunslet man delayed the inside ball to Welham. Guzdek kicked one from two this time around as Sheffield held a two-point advantage.
An interesting second half occurred with both sides holding leads at one stage. Two quick-fire tries from Tom Holmes and Chrimes put Sheffield in a comfortable position but not for the first time this season, Sheffield struggled to carry on the momentum and eventually surrendered that as well as the advantage.
Three tries in the space of nine minutes put Whitehaven back in front to the delight of their hardy following who made the journey to South Yorkshire. Dixon got his double, either side of a McAvoy effort, with Williams’ solitary conversion enough to edge his side in front with 19 minutes remaining.
Joy turned to anguish for McAvoy just moments later as a late tackle on Vila Halafihi earned him ten minutes in the bin. The Eagles could smell blood and did enough to earn the win with three more scores.
Thackeray got the momentum turning try from close in as he muscled his way through the defensive line, followed by Mikey Wood who used his sizeable frame to get past his opposite number. The final try of the afternoon went the way of Cory Aston, on appearance 100 for the Eagles, as he nicked the ball from Evans one-on-one to go over in the corner.
Photo by Alex Coleman