Eagles defeat Dons in pre-season finale
SHEFFIELD EAGLES 36
Dan Fowler for League Express, Olympic Legacy Park, Sunday
SHEFFIELD EAGLES ended their pre-season schedule with a derby day victory over South Yorkshire rivals Doncaster.
Overall, an entertaining game for both sets of fans and any neutrals in attendance as the teams showed glimpses of what they’re capable of as preparations continue for a big campaign.
A topsy-turvy first period ended with the Eagles eight points up. A spell of 12 minutes and three tries turned the tide in the hosts’ favour, but they did open the scoring in the early going courtesy of Vila Halafihi.
Doncaster’s riposte was clinical as Brad Hey and Sam Smeaton finished fine moves that were very easy on the eye.
But with the introduction of Lewis Peachey, Blake Broadbent and Titus Gwaze from the bench - the momentum seemed to shift as quick as the play-the-balls they were getting away.
Broadbent was on the scoresheet and soon followed by Matty Chrimes and Bayley Liu.
Chrimes’ effort had a touch of fortune considering it came just moments after Elliot Hall broke through the Eagles’ defence but could only find the Sheffield winger in support.
A few tackles later and Chrimes was the ultimate beneficiary by touching down from dummy-half.
Sheffield upped the ante in the opening stages of the second period, ultimately stretching their lead to four scores with a Jason Bass double and Bayley Liu single.
Doncaster kept plugging away and got their reward with scores in the final quarter from Jack Sanderson and Ben Johnston.
The Dons arrived in Sheffield with a 19-man squad, seven of those were ex-Eagles including the Grand Final winning Misi Taulapapa and Wembley star Brad Knowles.
As for the Eagles, it was another chance for Mark Aston to narrow down his selection for next weekend’s league opener against Halifax.
The return of Halafihi will be key and the hooker was first on the scoreboard after six minutes. Cory Aston couldn’t convert.
Richard Horne’s side were keen to use the wide Olympic Legacy Park pitch to their advantage and they did cause some issues to the Eagles.
Consecutive tries from Hey and Smeaton were both down to expansive play and hard running. Connor Robinson converted both.
Sheffield fought back and led at the interval, Broadbent powered over from close range before Chrimes’ dummy-half effort put the Eagles ahead once more.
Liu, arguably the Eagles’ Player of the Match, muscled his way to a four-pointer before the break as Aston’s men looked to take control of proceedings.
The second half couldn’t have started in better fashion for the Eagles as they got the ball back from kickoff and subsequently scored with Bass getting his first of two.
Liu and Bass again completed their braces before Doncaster came back with two more bites of the cherry, which would have pleased coach Horne.
Johnston ducked under a challenge to notch for the League 1 club before the scoring was rounded off by Sanderson’s brilliant effort.
Evan Hodgson was sin-binned with two minutes remaining for a dust-up in the middle of the field in what was the final action of note.
2 Ben Jones-Bishop
22 Matty Chrimes
3 Kris Welham
4 Ross Oakes
28 Matty Dawson-Jones
32 Cory Aston
19 Jack Hansen
8 Brandon Douglas
9 Vila Halafihi
10 Tyler Dickinson
15 Mikey Wood
12 Joel Farrell
13 Evan Hodgson
Subs (all used)
5 Jason Bass
14 Titus Gwaze
16 Blake Broadbent
20 Lewis Peachey
21 Ryan Johnson
23 Bayley Liu
25 Joe Hird
26 Ben Sheils
30 Mekhi Bridgeman-Reaney
31 Donald Kudangirana
Tries: Halafihi (6), Broadbent (24), Chrimes (27), Liu (36, 50’), Bass (42, 56)
Goals: Aston 1/3, Hansen 3/4
Sinbin - Hodgson (78) - fighting
1 Elliot Hall
2 Tom Halliday
3 Brad Hey
4 Jack Sanderson
5 Travis Corion
6 Ben Johnston
7 Connor Robinson
8 Keelan Foster
9 Greg Burns
19 Jose Kenga
11 Aaron Ollett-Hobson
12 Sam Smeaton
14 Brad Knowles
Subs (all used)
13 Loui McConnell
15 Ross Whitmore
16 Alex Holdstock
17 Dean Roberts
18 Misi Taulapapa
20 Dave Petersen
Tries: Hey (10), Smeaton (21), Johnston (68), Sanderson (73)
Goals: Robinson 3/3
GAMEBREAKER: Jason Bass’s second try on 56 minutes put too much daylight between the teams.
GAMESTAR: Bayley Liu was a menace to the Dons’ defence and has certainly put his name in the hat for a place in the Eagles pack against Halifax.
Rugby Leaguer & League Express Men of the Match
Eagles: Bayley Liu Doncaster: Sam Smeaton
Penalty count: 3-4
Referee: Aaryn Belafonte
SCORING SEQUENCE: 4-0, 4-6. 4-12, 10-12, 14-12, 20-12; 24-12, 30-12, 36-12, 36-18, 36-24