Sovatabua lifts Eagles

Rugby League Sheffield Eagles 26 Warrington 16
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The Independent Online
Sheffield Eagles became the first side to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Premiership, although they had to work hard in the second half at the Don Valley stadium to resist Warrington's fightback.

Sheffield had reason to be grateful that Waisale Sovatabua's appointment with disciplinary committee 24 hours earlier had not brought him a suspension. Twice in the first quarter, the Fijian full-back set up tries with delightful handling skills, benefiting first Willie Morganson and then Matt Crowther.

In between, Warrington got points on the board through Salesi Finau, who took Lee Briers' pass to crash over. But they were always the less eager as well as the less accomplished side and they fell farther behind when a kick through eluded Lee Penny and Nick Pinkney followed to score, Mark Aston's third goal giving Sheffield a convincing half-time advantage.

Inspired by their captain, Paul Stulthorpe, Warrington succeeded in stepping it up after the break. After Nigel Vagana, had been denied a try by being held up over the line, Willie Swann capitalised on the sustained pressure by sneaking over in the corner, Briers doing well to convert from the wide angle.

Sheffield had to defend with determination, especially when Vagana threatened to find a way through. Warrington edged closer when Martin Wood was penalised for not playing the ball properly and the Eagles advanced the kick by arguing.

But just as Sheffield started to look vulnerable, Sovatabua struck again. Aston's kick to the wing was won by Crowther and the Fijian was on hand to take Keith Seniors inside pass.

Tony Tatupu went over for Warrington, but it was too late to make a difference and Aston's fifth goal sent Sehffield safely through.

They now face the likelihood of a daunting trip to Bradford next week, for Warrington the season is over and all that remains is the expected clear out of players whose contracts have come to an end and who have too often failed to produce the goods this year.

Sheffield Eagles: Sovatabua; Pinkney, Morganson, Senior, Crowther; Wood, Aston; Broadbent, Vassilakopouls, Thompson, Carr, McAllister, Doyle. Substitutes used: Lawless, Laughton, Turner. Substistute not used: Mycoe.

Warrington: Penny; Finau, Roper, Vagana, Forter; Shelford, Briers; Chambers, Swann, Eyres, Papucu, Knott, Schulthorpe. Substitutes used: Wainwright, Stevens, Murray and Causey.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).