Newcastle thunderstruck by Sheffield
Sheffield Eagles produced a near-perfect first-half performance to ensure back-to-back league wins as they ran out 34-20 winners over full-time team Newcastle Thunder.
Eagles Director of Rugby Mark Aston welcomed back Tom Holmes to his squad after the Featherstone loanee rejoined the club this week.
Kadeem Williams started on the bench alongside Holmes. The former Eagles academy star made his first team debut in the last 15 minutes of the contest.
Ross Oakes was promoted from last weekend’s interchange bench to start in the second-row.
After seven minutes, Newcastle’s Alex Sutton opened the scoring in Featherstone.
The barge over proved to be the visitors only try in the first half. Jake Shorrocks’ missed conversion meant Thunder had a short-lived 0-4 lead.
Sheffield were temporarily reduced to 12 men a minute later when captain Anthony Thackeray was punished for lashing out but it was the Eagles who dealt better with the sin-bin.
After being awarded a penalty for the original offence on Thackeray, Vila Halafihi popped over the line for his third try of the season. Izaac Farrell put the Eagles in front with the conversion.
Sheffield coped well for the duration of Thackeray’s sin-bin and were rewarded with their second score quickly after his reintroduction.
After the ball went to ground following some poorly executed off-the-cuff play from the visitors, Kris Welham kicked the ball along before he managed to gather the ball and find Ben Jones-Bishop in support to provide the pace needed for a super Sheffield breakaway try.
After 29 minutes, Newcastle were reduced to 12 for 10 minutes when Lewis Peachey was sent to the bin following a high shot.
Unlike Thunder earlier in the game, Sheffield made full use of the extra man, scoring three tries within a five minute period, taking their first half points total to 30.
Jones-Bishop read Anthony Thackeray’s delicate cross-field kick perfectly for a swift-looking score on 32 minutes.
It was then the turn of the Farrell brothers to link-up for a special score, Thackeray played through stand-off Izaac who was grateful for his brother’s support in attack to finish off the well-worked move.
Thackeray was next on the scoresheet, with the Eagles showcasing some of their best rugby of the season so far.
Winger Jones-Bishop got down the right edge after a short-side play, he showed his pace once again evading the chasing Thunder defence and Thackeray was there in support of the former Leeds Rhinos man who picked-out his skipper. His converted try finished off a brilliant first-half performance.
HALF-TIME: SHEFFIELD EAGLES 30-4 NEWCASTLE THUNDER
Sheffield had to weather what turned out to be a second-half thunderstorm from Eamon O’Carroll’s side.
The visitors had an Umyla Hanley’s effort chalked off within the first 10 minutes of the restart due to obstruction.
Both sides were left to play another 10 with 12 men following a scuffle which saw Evan Hodgson and Josh Eaves sin-binned.
Newcastle made better use of the extra space on the pitch as they started to attempt a comeback with the final 20 minutes looming.
Former London Broncos winger Gideon Boafo was on the end of some smart Thunder play, finishing thanks to good work down the right from Alex Sutton, Shorrocks couldn’t convert.
Newcastle went in for their second try in two minutes; Peachey broke through the heart of the Eagles defence before showing good footwork to evade Tom Holmes.
Williams received a healthy reception by the Sheffield fans he was brought into the action for the remaining 15 minutes.
With eight minutes left, Sutton went in for his score following an impressive, mazy run from the centre. Shorrocks converted for 30-20.
The Eagles missed out on two chances to extend their lead before Jones-Bishop completed his hat-trick on 78 minutes,
Jason Bass was pushed into touch when he attempted a score in the corner before Izaac Farrell’s penalty goal attempt veered wide of the sticks.
With time running out for Newcastle, the Eagles worked the ball to the right for Jones-Bishop who coolly produced the finish in the corner to seal his third try of the game and the crucial two points for Sheffield.
FULL-TIME: SHEFFIELD EAGLES 34-20 NEWCASTLE THUNDER
The Eagles visit high-flyers Leigh Centurions next Friday in league action before the semi-final of the 1895 Cup a week later against Adrian Lam’s side.
By Lewis Coleman, photo by Alex Coleman