Rugby Union: Senior's service lifts Eagles

Sheffield Eagles 27 Halifax Blue Sox 8
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The Independent Online
KEITH SENIOR broke his drought to inspire the Eagles to a decisive second-half burst of scoring that takes them above a weary Halifax in the middle reaches of Super League.

Sheffield were clinging to a precarious lead when the Great Britain centre emerged in spectacular style from a balanced spell that stretched back to the Challenge Cup defeat by Salford in February. As if the tension had lifted from the whole team, they went on to win convincingly.

It had started in eye-catching fashion as well. There can be few things more satisfying for a coach than to see one of his best laid plans bear fruit before he has even settled into his seat. That was the happy position for John Keir as the Eagles took the lead after only a minute. Martin Pearson kicked for touch to gain scrum possession under the new 44/20 rule. On the last tackle of that possession and with equal deliberation, Rod Doyle kicked for the corner and Dale Cardoza stole through to touch down.

Pearson, signed from Halifax this winter, added to their woes with a touchline conversion.

After Gavin Clinch had reduced the deficit to a penalty, another ex-Halifax player inflicted punishment on them, Michael Jackson putting boot to ball to run through and score after Geoff Hardy's initial kick.

Halifax, showing the effects of a hard game against London in mid-week, badly needed something to lift them and they got it when Clinch performed his party piece of stealing the ball from an opponent in this case Matt Crowther, who was left looking embarrassed as the Halifax scrum half went over for a try he converted himself.

Clinch's skilful kicking in open play was also proving a problem for the Eagles, who were content enough to hang on to their four point lead until half-time.

That was how it remained for 18 minutes of sparring at the start of the second half, with Sheffield ruining any immediate hopes they had of extending their lead with unforced handling errors.

Fortunately for them, Halifax were equally slipshod and the Eagles kept their noses in front until Senior's contribution.

The surprising statistic that showed him not having scored in Super League this season was ripped up as he made up for that omission by wrestling his way through a series of tackles to go half the length of the field.

Three minutes later Hardy, whose return from Australia has done much to put some punch into Sheffield's midfield, created a gap with a sleight of hand and raced 30 yards to score.

Although Pearson missed both conversions and a penalty, the Eagles made that academic with a third try in eight minutes, Hardy picking through for Cardoza to claim his second. Pearson this time succeeded from the touchline and added a drop goal before the end.

Sheffield: Watson; Cardoza, Powell, Senior, Crowther; Hardy, Pearson; Molloy, Lawless, Shaw, Jackson, Turner, Doyle. Substitutes: Sovatabua, Thorman, Baldwin, Anderson

Halifax: Cardiss; Gibson, Bloem, Craig, Hodgson; Chester, Clinch; Broadbent, Rowley, Skerrett, Clark, Seal, Moana. Substitutes: Fearon, Holroyd, Marshall, Bouveng.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).

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