A day to forget for Eagles at Bradford

Sheffield's Misi Taulapapa scored his tenth try of the season in defeat to Bradford
Sheffield's Misi Taulapapa scored his tenth try of the season in defeat to Bradford
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Down on the London Underground, as you wait on the platform, a sign warns: mind the gap.

That admonition could easily apply after the first round of the Middle Eight Qualifiers. Perhaps predictably the Super League clubs will be feeling a little less apprehensive about their top-flight status.

Leigh gave Challenge Cup finalists Hull KR a scare but faded in the second half. Halifax’s part-timers kept the game alive until the final minutes but failed to score a point against Widnes.

For Sheffield Eagles, in the only all-Championship clash, it was a day to forget at Bradford who have kept a full-time squad as they attempt to bounce back after relegation.

Half-back Lee Gaskell – back for the Bulls after injury – scored a hat-trick of tries in a 42-10 win. Eagles tries from Misi Taulapapa – his tenth of the season – and Menzie Yere were token defiance.

Coach Mark Aston was downbeat about the team’s prospects in the qualifiers adding a warning to players who want to stay next season: “I want an improvement. There are people playing for contracts and will be judged.”

Sheffield must travel to Widnes on Sunday (kick-off 3pm). Given that the Vikings were only edged out of the Super League top eight by a single point it looks a journey of hope over expectation.

The crunch for Bradford comes on Saturday at Wakefield who despite trying to sign a new team for the play-offs lost narrowly at Salford.

Leigh must repeat their Challenge Cup heroics from earlier in the season when they travel to Salford. It’s not looking good for the Championship sides.

Now clubs like Sheffield will be quick to tell you the season isn’t over – but it is if you bought a season ticket. The qualifiers are not covered and it’s time to pay up again.

Other clubs are doing the same but their fans don’t have to take the motorway to home games and discover the delights of Doncaster.

For Eagles supporters trips to the Keepmoat are a bit like a hospital appointment: You know you have to go, hope for a good result and then get away as fast as you can.

The three ‘home’ qualifying games are attractive – Halifax at the Keepmoat, and the final two (Hull KR and Wakefield) back in Sheffield at Bramall Lane. Petrol prices may have fallen but should supporters be asked to pay yet again?

This isn’t Sheffield Wednesday, it’s the Eagles and a chance to reward loyal fans for all those M18 miles by declaring their season tickets valid for at least one game.