There’s no turning back for Sheffield Eagles and Doncaster when they meet in the season’s crunch game.
The prize for the winners of the second round Championship play-off tie is a place in the semi-finals – for the losers the season is over.
Eagles go into Sunday’s game at the Keepmoat (kick-off 3pm) as the form team with seven straight wins.
The Dons have been inconsistent in the final weeks of the league season and suffered a heavy 41-14 defeat at Leigh in the first play-off round.
Eagles’ coach Mark Aston warns that in one-off games the pressure is on. He said: “It’s one of those now where you are either in or out, it’s that simple.
“We have spoken about this since the start of the play-offs. The players know now when they want their season to end is in their own hands – this is week two and we want to make the Grand Final in week four.”
Doncaster have home advantage but that won’t be a big factor with the Eagles having won twice at the Keepmoat this season.
Aston wants his team to play with greater tempo than in the 16-0 win over Batley in the last round.
He needs his half-backs Dominic Brambani and Kyle Briggs to take control. Their battle with Dons’ player-coach Paul Cooke will be key with Aston paying tribute to the ex-Hull FC and KR star.
“Doncaster have had a great season and Paul has been outstanding as a player and coach and he’d be my nomination for the player and the coach of the year,’ he said.
“Two years ago people were writing Paul off but he’s come back as a player and a coach and helped Doncaster to finish fourth in the league.
“I’m not saying he’s done it single-handedly but he’s been a major factor in their success this year.”
USA international Lelauloto Tagaloa is ruled out for the Eagles with a broken arm with prop Tony Lillycrop set for a recall.
Hooker James Davey faces a fitness test tonight. Cory Aston and Jack Blagbrough are added to the squad.