It’s the battle of the birds in Hunslet this Friday evening as Sheffield Eagles travel to the South Leeds Stadium. After a disappointing afternoon in Blackpool last Saturday, it’s vital that the Eagles get back to winning ways because teams like Dewsbury, Featherstone and Halifax are quite nearby. For Hunslet, they consolidated their place in mid-table with a win over basement side Doncaster.
Last Time Out
The Eagles went to the seaside, Bloomfield Road in fact, to take on a London Broncos side who had coach Andrew Henderson in at dummy-half for the first time. Henderson’s presence in the starting lineup could not be underestimated as his leadership and calmness in both attack and defence proved massive to the sound of a 46-6 success for the side from The Hive. London were 24-0 inside the first quarter of play, therefore ending the game as a contest from then on in. Welsh duo Elliot Kear and Rhys Williams scored three of the Broncos’ four tries in that period. Full-back Kear grabbed a brace and winger Williams notched a four pointer for himself. Ben Hellewell was the other try-scorer for London as they really put on the burners to build a lead against a rather lacklustre Sheffield outfit. Oscar Thomas and Cory Aston then exchanged scores for both sides as the tries started to dry up as the half wore on. Sheffield were 28-6 down at half-time, after having a Menzie Yere effort ruled out. London stand-off Thomas ended up with a hat-trick from the day’s proceedings, with second half tries coming in the 48th and 60th minute. A credit to London’s production line which has flourished in recent years. Williams scored the final try of the match for London in the 69th minute, rounding off a brilliant day for his side but a torrid one for everyone associated with Sheffield Eagles.
Hunslet boosted their survival chances on Sunday in Blackpool as Barry Eaton’s side got the better of Doncaster by 25-12. The game was rather even for the most part but a Luke Briscoe try in the final quarter eventually downed a spirited Dons side who don’t look too far off getting that elusive victory. The Hawks took the lead on 8 minutes via Jimmy Keinhorst but they were pegged back soon after as Doncaster’s talented young half-back Richard Wilkinson managed to weave his way over the whitewash. Jimmy Watson and Danny Maun scored respective tries within six minutes of each other to put Hunslet firmly in the driving seat. However, a Shaun Leaf four pointer for Doncaster made the half-time team talks a bit more interesting as the deficit was cut to 8 points after the first 40 minutes of play. Doncaster winger Tom Hodson furthered his side’s chances of getting something out of the game when he touched down in the 55th minute. A penalty goal from Danny Ansell extended Hunslet’s lead to six points before Briscoe found his way over the chalk, to the dismay of Doncaster’s travelling fans. The Hunslet following kept their singing going when Ansell slotted a drop-goal between the sticks to seal the deal for a West Yorkshire side who are proving the critics wrong by holding their own in the Championship.
In a match where negatives came by the minute, Sheffield looked rather clueless when they had some field position and a chance to post some points on the board last Saturday. The half-back pairing of Cory Aston and Dominic Brambani surprised a few people when the teams were announced, for the main reason that Kyle Briggs has been one of the best Eagles players by far in 2015. Whether coach Mark Aston left Briggs out of the side as a precaution or not is there for people to ponder. The main pivot positions are key to a side’s success, and Hunslet have good players in all of those places. With Andy Kain and Danny Ansell in the respective half-back positions, plus ex-Eagle Simon Brown sat in the stands, the Hawks have creative choices in that area of the field. Out of dummy half against Doncaster, the dual-registered Robbie Ward made a starting appearance whilst former Batley and Featherstone hooker George Flanagan started on the interchange.
How teams bounce back from a heavy defeat is usually a good indicator of character and, ultimately, talent. Sheffield Eagles need to bounce back with a win at Hunslet, but a victory for Barry Eaton’s Hawks may well secure their mid-table status. It’s going to be a top tie to kick off round 15 of the Kingstone Press Championship – Sheffield by 10