RUGBY LEAGUE: Chester and Clinch expose depleted Eagles

Halifax 33 Sheffield 16
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Halifax 33 Sheffield 16

THE FLUENT passing skills of their half-backs, Gavin Clinch and Chris Chester, ensured that, after their hiccup at St Helens last week, Halifax are once more securely on course for a top-three finish. Always in control against a side that has simply run out of players at the wrong time, Halifax were dangerous whenever they moved the ball out.

Fortunately for a team that might have been expected to miss the injured Martin Moana, they had, in Clinch and Chester, players whose instinct was to open up play, starting with Chester's long pass to Des Clark, cleverly turned inside by the second-row man for David Bouvang to score.

Chester was again the provider for Bouvang in the 12th minute, before his run set up the position from which Clinch released Daio Powell for the third try.

Clinch also sent Karl Harrison charging over for Halifax's fourth and they would have been even more safely in the lead if Martin Pearson had kicked any of his goals. Clinch even showed him how that should be done, albeit with a drop goal, before half-time.

Sheffield, who went into the game with some hopes of still making fifth place, had their best period immediately after the break, culminating in Paul Carr's try. They were pushed firmly back in their place, however, by Halifax's South African winger Jamie Bloem, who scored the first of his hat-trick when Clinch and Chester moved the ball virtually the width of the field in two passes.

The over-stretching of the Eagle's resources was underlined when they packed down with their full-back, Waisale Sovatabua, at prop, and their centre, Whetu Taewa, in the second row.

It was not long before Clinch initiated another attack from which Bloem again scored, Pearson at last landing his first goal.

Keith Senior got a Sheffield try that he deserved for his personal efforts before Clinch's educated hands sent Bloem away once more for another converted try.

The best that could be said of the depleted Eagles was they tried to stick to their hopeless task, Willie Morganson going over in the last minute, but a place in the play-offs now looks beyond them.

Halifax: Gibson, Bloem, Powell, Pearson, Bouveng, Chester, Clinch, Harrison, Rowley, Skerrett, Mercer, Clark, Baldwin. Substitutes used: Marns, Marshall, Gillespie, Hall.

Sheffield: Sovatabua, Pinkney, Taewa, Morganson, Sodje, Watson, Aston, Laughton, Lawless, Shaw, Carr, Senior, Doyle. Substitutes used: Vassilakopoulos, Stephens, Wood, Cardoza,

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).