The curtain has come down on another season in the history of Sheffield Eagles, but will the stage be re-set for a return in 2017?
After being narrowly defeated 27-16 by Bradford Bulls in the Championship Shield final, all focus is now on whether the club will be back for another tilt at the Championship’s top four next season.
News at the back end of last week that a much needed takeover has taken a step forward will give supporters solid hope that an encore is just around the corner.
Chief Executive John Whaling says that a deal is set to be concluded next month, although he stopped short of giving a cast iron guarantee that it is a certainty.
On the field, director of rugby Mark Aston was desperate to end the season on a high, and his side will think themselves unlucky not to be lifting silverware after dominating large parts of the second half.
The hosts made the early running, but after failing to shake off a determined Eagles, it took two late Kris Welham tries to finally secure victory.
It looked ominous for Aston’s side as Bradford made a blistering start when Dane Chisholm re-gathered his own kick off as the Bulls charged forward, resulting in Adam O’Brien crashing over after just 21 seconds. Lewis Charnock converted.
Despite a good response from Eagles, Adrian Purtell’s converted try on 13 minutes gave the Bulls the upper hand.
A further converted try from O’Brien would have had the Eagles worried of another heavy defeat at Odsal, but Aston’s side found the same fighting spirit that they showed at Halifax as they surged back into the contest.
Just before the half hour, Kieren Moss’ knock on gave the visitors prime position, and from the scrum the ball was handed to the returning Menzie Yere who dived over in the corner. Cory Aston converted.
The Eagles further reduced the deficit in comedy fashion. Garry Lo looked to have surrendered possession when his pass was intercepted but Kurt Haggerty proceeded to throw a loose pass behind his team mate, and crucially his own line, allowing Rob Worrincy a simple try converted by Aston.
Eagles chipped away further with Aston successfully kicking two penalties to reduce the deficit to two points.
After Lo was stopped just short of the line to deny Eagles the lead, the hosts finally woke up to dent any hopes of a surprise victory.
A brace of tries from Welham inside the final 10 minutes, coupled with a Chisholm drop goal saw the Bulls over the line, as Eagles now switch their attention to more pressing matters.
Until the ink is dry on the paperwork, the Eagles long suffering fans will keep their fingers crossed that there is no late twist in the storyline.
The fans have dug deep into their own pockets over the last two months to provide the club vital funding to bridge the gap before the takeover can be completed. Their desire to sustain rugby league in the Steel City has given the club a much needed shot in the arm. It appears their faith has been rewarded, but there is still some work to be done.
Bradford: Moss; Williams, Mellor, Welham, Purtell; Chisholm, Charnock; Sidlow, O’Brien, Kavanagh; Haggertty, Addy; Pitts. Interchange: Oakes, Olbison, Ferguson, Clark.
Scorers: Tries: O’Brien (1, 22), Purtell (12), Welham (71, 76) Goals: Charnock 3/5 Drop Goals: Chisholm 1/1
eagles: Laulu-Togagae; Lo, Yere, Tyson, Worrincy; Aston, Jacks; Wheeldon, Carlile, Neal; James, Straugheir; Minchella. Interchange: Fozard, Thorpe, Margalet, Mexico.
Scorers: Tries: Yere (27), Worrincy (32) Goals: Aston 4/4