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EXTENDED PREVIEW: Sheffield Eagles v Leigh Centurions

Sheffield Eagles v Leigh Centurions -A clash between two of the Championship’s early pace-setters. Sheffield Eagles host Leigh Centurions at the Keepmoat Stadium this Sunday, with both teams coming into the match with comfy wins under their belts from round eight.

Last Time Out

Sheffield travelled to West Yorkshire for a battle with Featherstone Rovers. In what was the Eagles’ first acid test of a tough month, Mark Aston’s side passed with flying colours as they defeated Featherstone 33-4 at the Big Fellas Stadium. Menzie Yere opened the scoring for Sheffield in the third minute of the match, this was before Scott Turner and Quentin Laulu-Togagae posted further scores. A penalty goal was also added by Pat Walker. Two sin-binnings in the first half, one for each side as Jack Bussey and John Davies both had a ten minute cooler for Featherstone and Sheffield respectively. 20-0 at half-time and the Rovers fans certainly made their feelings known, booing their team off the field and into the sheds. The Sheffield scoring service continued in the second half when Misi Taulapapa crossed. Will Sharp replied for Featherstone but Gareth Moore couldn’t convert, leaving the score at 28-4 to the Eagles. Davies and Tony Tonks of Sheffield along with Ian Hardman and Andy Ellis of Featherstone all visited the sin-bin before Michael Knowles pinged over a drop-goal. Loose forward turned temporary winger Walker scored with the final touch of the match to round off a great day for Sheffield. A 33-4 win was the perfect end to a great Easter period for the Keepmoat Stadium side.

Leigh Centurions handed Gareth Hock his Championship debut against Workington Town, a game where he replaced Fuifui Moimoi off the interchange for his first stint. The Centurions were 54-6 victors and Hock recorded a brace. Sean Penkywicz and Carl Forber exchanged scores for both sides during the first ten minutes before the Centurions scored two more tries before half-time. Penkywicz and Adam Higson both went over the whitewash for Leigh, giving the hosts an 18-6 lead at the break. Ryan Brierley and Liam Kay both scored within six minutes of the match restarting, more breathing space for the reigning champions and they were getting close to full flow. Michael Platt, Gregg McNally and a Hock double ended the game in a great fashion for Paul Rowley’s side.

Key Battle

The battle between the forwards of Featherstone and Sheffield partly determined the result on Easter Monday. The Eagles’ pack stood up and really set a good platform for Kyle Briggs and Dominic Brambani to work off. This week, despite the class all around the pitch, I’m going to focus on the forwards due to the fact there’s massive talent within both packs. Eddie Battye and Tony Tonks were the starting props for Sheffield while Jamie Langley and Michael Knowles started in the second row with Patch Walker at loose forward. Everybody contributed finely, the completion rates were high, and the yards made along with the solid defence will have been a very satisfying sight to see from an Eagles point of view. For Leigh, Fuifui Moimoi and Jamie Acton were the prop forwards, with Andrew Dixon, Tommy Goulden and Sam Hopkins filling in the back-row positions. Moimoi won’t be playing this Sunday as he’s been ruled out with a medial ligament strain. But it’s not like the Centurions are short of options. The full-time side may put Jake Emmitt in a starting role and add Oliver Wilkes into the match day squad. The Cumbrian-born ex Eagle was rested by Paul Rowley for the Workington fixture. The Centurions have the best forward pack in the division, and they’ll be wanting to keep topside of a competitive Sheffield outfit.

Prediction

With both teams starting the season at a very high level, this match will be eagerly anticipated for the neutral as well as the respective Sheffield and Leigh clubs. With the Centurions squad all on full-time contracts, they will have prepared to the hilt for this clash against arguably the best part-time side in the division so far. Sheffield will fancy their chances if they play to a similar standard as what they did against Featherstone, but the Centurions aren’t champions for nothing and they’ll go into the match as favourites – Leigh by 8

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