Rugby League: Eagles enjoy Senior service

Sheffield Eagles 47 Huddersfield 32
Click to follow
A CONVINCING Sheffield victory, achieved despite having Dale Laughton sent off at the end of the first half and conceding a flurry of points when it was too late, leaves three clubs unsure of their futures.

Huddersfield could have made themselves virtually safe from Super League relegation. Instead, their woeful performance means that Hull can now climb above them if they win at London today. Either way, the fate of the two will come down to Sunday's final matches.

As for Sheffield, in what could be their last match at the Don Valley Stadium before moving to more modest accommodation they showed a fluency and self-belief rarely in evidence since they won the Challenge Cup 16 months ago. Huddersfield had the misfortune to run into a team belatedly rediscovering their form at the scrag end of a disappointing season.

Sheffield took the lead when Darren Turner took Jeff Hardy's pass and stretched out an arm to score after less than two minutes. With Mark Aston back directing operations and Keith Senior showing the power that makes him one of the game's most sought-after players, Sheffield scored again through Karl Lovell and then enjoyed a double dose of vintage Senior.

First he took an inside pass from Matt Crowther to touch down and returned the compliment, slipping the ball out of the tackle to give his wingman a try. Waisale Sovatabua lunged over from dummy-half for another and Aston added the fourth of his seven goals.

Against that, all that Huddersfield could manage was a try awarded to Craig Weston after David Boughton appeared to have lost the ball in reaching over the line, plus two goals from Jene Ngamu.

Just before the break the complexion of the game almost changed when the Eagles had Laughton dismissed for butting and Ngamu was sin-binned for throwing the punch that started the trouble.

A ban of more than one game would put Laughton, who has already been sent off and suspended for head-butting this season, out of Great Britain's plans against Australia and New Zealand this autumn - so an extra strand of uncertainty was now woven into the match.

Sheffield made the game safe early in the second half. Aston dropped a goal and then Mark Sibson fumbled Martin Pearson's high kick to allow him to score. After that, the Eagles were beyond recall.

Sheffield: Sovatabua, Sodje, Lovell, Senior, Crowther, Stephens, Aston, Molloy, Lawless, Shaw, Jackson, Turner, Hardy. subs: Baldwin, Laughton, Pearson, Doyle.

Huddersfield: Sibson, Booth, Gleeson, Weston, Cheetham, Njamu, Lawford, Berry, Russell, Sturm, Boughton, Slattery, Johnson, subs: Reilly, Neill, Hill, Wright.

Referee: R. Connolly (Wigan).