When Sheffield trailed 22-2 after half an hour it seemed British pride was in for another battering. But the Eagles showed a determination that has been missing from the approach of some other English clubs and fully deserved a win that will lift the morale of the whole of the British game.
Nick Pinkney began the fightback, racing through to touch down after Martin Wood had kicked ahead before half-time. That still left Sheffield with a mountain to climb after the break but they set about the ascent with a will and with real belief in themselves. After they had subjected Perth to considerable pressure, their Australian centre, Willie Morganson, scored a vital try against his fellow countrymen, following up after clever footwork John Lawless.
Five minutes from time, it still seemed that Sheffield had left themselves with too much to do, but then Paul Carr took Morganson's long pass, found Mark Aston on his shoulder and watched as Linton Stott arrived to go over. Aston's kick left the Eagles only two points behind.
With time running out, Aston kicked again, this time deep into Perth territory. Their full-back, Greg Fleming, lost the ball in a tackle from Marcus Vassilakopoulos, making an impact on his Sheffield debut, and Pinkney swooped for his second try.
"We had been quietly confident all week, because we saw them struggle at Castleford, and we know we are a better team than Castleford," said the Sheffield captain, Paul Broadbent, as the Don Valley crowd celebrated as though they had won the Cup. "We worked really hard for that win and I hope that other British clubs will now kick on, because I don't think the gap between the two countries is as wide as it has been made to look."
Sheffield Eagles: Stott, Pinkney, Taewa, Morganson, Garcia, Flynn, Aston, Broadbent, Erba, Edmed, Carr, McAllister, Wood. Substitutes used: Senior, Lawless, Wright, Vassilakopoulos.
Perth Reds: Fleming, Ryan, Bell, Horan, Daylight, Wilson, Rodwell, Kearns, Fuller, Green, Grieve, Shiels, Fritz. Substitutes used: Ridding, Chapman, Evans, Dever.
Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).Reuse content