Rugby League: Lawless sparks fall of hapless

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The Independent Online
Sheffield 18

Hull 8

SHEFFIELD EAGLES won their first match since early May to demonstrate that, bad though they might be at the moment, they are not yet as bad as Super League's bottom club.

A run of seven matches without a win - the worst in the division - was eventually ended with something to spare, but that was certainly not because Sheffield had recovered anything approaching convincing form. It was purely a matter of a wretched Hull being ripe for the taking and the Eagles would have won by more but for some dreadful finishing.

The game was littered with knock-ons and penalties and woefully lacking in any sort of continuity. When the first try arrived after 34 minutes it was no wonder that the ground announcer advised spectators to contact the local opticians who were sponsoring the match officials if they could not believe their eyes. Not that there was anything very creative about it, John Lawless merely darting through a static defence from dummy half. In the context of the first 40 minutes, though, it was a spectacular effort.

The rest consisted of facile mistakes and infringements. Hull, despite the fillip of breaking their own long losing streak in midweek, were the more guilty side. They conceded three penalties, two for offside and one for Jim Latham's high tackle on Gareth Stephens in the first 13 minutes and Martin Pearson kicked the lot.

Hull's teenage stand-off, Paul Cooke, put one over for them when Sheffield were also caught offside, but he missed a couple of others that could have had his side in closer touch at half-time.

They could, however, have been further behind if Waisale Sovatabua had not had a try disallowed for a forward pass, one of a number of occasions on which the Eagles got it wrong in scoring positions.

Pearson also missed with a dropped goal attempt before Sheffield stretched their lead to matchwinning proportions, Daio Powell taking a short pass from Stephens and showing the strength required to wrestle his way over. Pearson kicked his fifth goal to take the Eagles further into the clear.

Hull's reply had an element of farce about it, Graeme Hallas being allowed to scramble up after an uncompleted tackle and run half the length of the field for a try he converted himself.

A side with any wit or invention about it could have made Sheffield sweat during the last few minutes. Not Hull; they never looked like closing the 10 point gap and their prospects of climbing off the foot of the table look bleaker than ever.

Sheffield: Sovatabua; Sodje, Powell, Senior, Crowther; Pearson, Stephens; Laughton, Lawless, Molloy, Lovell, Shaw, Turner. Substitutes used: Cardoza, Jackson, Doyle, Thorman.

Hull: Horne; Poucher, J Smith, Campbell, Hallas; Cooke, Lester; Harrison, Purcell, Craven, M Smith, Leatham, Roberts. Substitutes used: Barrow, Fletcher, Ireland, Murdock.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).