Rugby League: Osborne leaves Eagles in lurch

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Sheffield Eagles 0

Widnes 22

SHEFFIELD's 10-year-old boast of never having failed to score in a game was demolished by Widnes in a mistake-ridden match at Don Valley.

The big talking point, however, was off the field, though it certainly had a knock-on effect on the game. Paul Osborne, Roy of the Rovers personified for Canberra in last Sunday's Grand Final, was due to start the game for Sheffield on the bench.

Whichever bench he was on, it was not in England, as Osborne had contacted the club to say he had had a change of mind. The word is that his wife had something to do with his decision to stay in Australia but whatever the reason Sheffield could have done with half the spirit he displayed for the Raiders in the Grand Final.

The injury to Paul Carr brought a reshuffle and put the international centre Daryl Powell at loose-forward; Keith Senior, 18 years old and fresh from the Academy, made his debut on the wing. Widnes were missing Steve McCurrie, and played the prop David Smith at hooker.

Widnes dominated both territory and possession in the first half but had nothing to show for it apart from a sixth-minute try from the full-back, Stuart Spruce, from which Adrian Hadley kicked the goal. The slippery, wet conditions on a dull day affected Sheffield more than their visitors, but resolution as the try-line loomed was what was missing from both sides' play.

The second half produced a better show from both teams. The 2,000 spectators saw the centre Darren Wright score twice, with Hadley claiming one goal, and, as the Eagles played a spirited last quarter, Widnes managed to take the game beyond their reach with a try from Carl Hammond and a third goal from Hadley.

For a side who had conceded over 200 points already this season, the Widnes defence was sturdy and resourceful. Sheffield having started their campaign well, looked to be in danger of commencing the sort of slide that blighted their mid-season last year. Then, the solution was to dismiss the coach: this time with the chairman, Gary Hetherington, filling that job it may be more of a problem.

Sheffield Eagles: Mycoe; Stott, Price, Hutchinson, Senior; Sheridan, Briggs; Broadbent, Jackson, Randall (Sodje, 60), Glancey (Turner, 38), Farrell, Powell.

Widnes: Spruce; Green, Hammond, Wright, Hadley; Singleton, Hulme; Ireland, Smith (Ruane, 58), Makin (Myler, 66), Hansen, O'Neill, Collier.

Referee: C Morris (Huddersfield).