Eagles dare to match greatest triumph
Featherstone Rovers 16 Sheffield Eagles 20
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Halliwell Jones Stadium
Monday 01 October 2012
Sheffield Eagles won their biggest trophy since their unforgettable Wembley triumph of 1998, by beating the hot favourites for the Co-operative Championship title.
Just like Wigan 14 years ago, Featherstone Rovers were shocked by an inspired Eagles performance. Mark Aston, the Eagles' man of the match on that famous day and now their coach, as well as the man who revived them, called it a win "that ranks with anything we've ever done. Thirteen years ago, we didn't even have a team, but this makes those 13 years all worthwhile."
Rovers were out to cement their status as the best-equipped club outside Super League – and not necessarily outside it for ever. All the early indications, though, were that there would be no repeat of the 40 points they stuck on the same opponents 12 months ago. Sheffield had built up plenty of momentum on their surge into this year's Grand Final from fourth place – and it showed.
Alex Scott had a try disallowed for offside early on and, after nine minutes, the Eagles took the lead with one that did count. Menzie Yere, the Papua New Guinean known in that country as The Jukebox – because he has all the big hits – slipped the ball out of a tackle and Scott Turner finished in the corner.
Featherstone built a modest lead with Ian Hardman's try and two goals from Liam Finn, but it was Sheffield who finished the half in style.
Starting near their own line through Yere and Turner, they swept upfield to score through Quentin Laulu-Togagae and the suspicion was then that an upset was on the cards.
The second half was a fluctuating affair, with Rovers levelling through Finn's penalty, going behind to Dane McDonald's try and hitting the front again through Jonny Hepworth. But when Misi Taulapapa plucked Dominic Brambani's kick out of the air to score on the right wing, he gave them a lead they were to hold, even though the last 10 minutes resembled a siege.
The Featherstone coach, Daryl Powell, himself a former Eagle, had no complaints about Rovers' failure to retain their title. "I can't argue with the result," he said. "They're a magnificent club and they deserve all the accolades that will come their way."
Sheffield, meanwhile, do not rule out a tilt at Super League themselves: an unlikely prospect, but Sheffield specialise in the unlikely.
Featherstone: Hardman; Ropati, Chappell, Worthington, Saxton; Kain, Finn; England, Kaye, Lockwood, Dale, Spiers, Briggs. Substitutes used: Hepworth, Bostock, Maloney, Dickens. Sheffield: Laula-Togagae; Turner, Yere, Straugheir, Taulapapa; Brown, Brambani; Howieson, Henderson, Stringer, Knowles, Scott, Szostak. Substitutes used: Davey, McDonald, Green, Higgins. Referee: T.Roby (Dewsbury)
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