St Helens 52
Sheffield Eagles 26
WHEN a part-time team faces the power of a Super League squad in the Challenge Cup it can lead to an embarrassing defeat.
Sheffield Eagles made sure that was never going to happen as they came back from an early points blast and finished with a flourish against the might of St Helens.
Fullback Quentin Laulu-Togagae showed great timing as he backed up the forwards to plunder a late hat-trick of tries that made Eagles fans’ journey to the Stobart Stadium for the fourth round game worthwhile.
The Eagles were denied possession and under siege in their final 20-metres for much of the game but met the onslaught with grim defence.
Coach Mark Aston was proud of the way his team battled to bridge the class gap. He said: “Teams like St Helens can put you to the sword and they blasted away but we showed a lot of character.
“Elementary mistakes cost us tries early on. We saw the difference between the Super League and part-time players but we can take a lot of positives and scored some quality tries towards the end.”
A dropped ball gave Saints their first try after three minutes from James Foster and they swiftly followed it with scores from Sia Soliola and Francis Meli.
Determined defence halted the tide, Simon Brown produced a 40-20 kick and Laulu-Togagae a 60-metre break before Alex Szostak grabbed a morale-boosting try after a Saints’ player knocked the ball back.
Michael Shenton’s try pushed the Saints lead to 22-6 at the break and that rapidly became 40-6 with tries from Meli, Jon Wilkin and Foster soon after the restart.
Szostak again hit back with a try following up a kick to the corner from Simon Brown but Kyle Eastmond restored the points margin.
Eagles started to get some quality ball and made it count with a series of impressive driving sets from the forwards.
Laulu-Togagae was backing up and was rewarded with three tries in six stunning minutes – first squeezing over from a Dane McDonald pass, then from Alex Rowe’s offload and finally following up a Szostak burst. Brown brought his goal total to three from five attempts.
Saints Chris Flannery grabbed a last minute try and Foster kicked his eighth goal.
St Helens: Ashe; Gardner, Shenton, Meli, Foster; Wilkin, Eastmond; Graham, Roby, Perry, Soliola, Flannery, Magennis. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Ashurst, Dixon, Armstrong.
Tries: Foster 3, 50, Soliola, 13, Meli 15,42, Shenton 32, Wilkin 48, Estmond 56, Flannery 79. Goals: Foster 8/9.
Eagles: Laulu-Togagae; Mills, Menzie Yere, Hanson, Bergin; McDonald, Brown; Howieson, Henderson, Stringer, Szostak, Green, Hirst. Subs: Rowe, Battye, Hepworth, Scott.
Tries; Szostak 28, 54. Laulu-Togagae 71, 75, 77. Goals: Brown 3/5.