Poor decision making cost Sheffield Eagles dearly as they lost Northern Rail Cup final 43-28 to Leigh Centurions.
It was a second weekend of heartbreak for the Eagles following their exit in the Challenge Cup to London Broncos.
In a thrilling game at the Shay, Halifax, passion flared into a punch-up with both teams reduced to 12 men with two players shown red cards.
Coach Mark Aston must now pull his team back together as they face three league games in 10 days in defence of the Championship title.
“I know we are down but don’t give me that pity, it hurts inside, it hurts me massively because we didn’t get beaten by a better team, we presented them the game,” he said.
“When we didn’t take the opportunity to kill the game the frustration and the loss of composure and the mistakes that came on the back of that put us back.”
A Martyn Ridyard penalty gave Leigh the lead but Eagles showcased their attacking flair as Patch Walker’s final pass sent Matt Garside racing in. Dominic Brambani added the goal.
The video ref ruled out a Scott Turner ‘score’ and Leigh edged back with a try from centre Stuart Littler and a Ridyard goal.
The half ended in a flurry of tries with Menzie Yere’s power taking him for his 33rd of the season and Misi Taulapapa going in at the corner. Brambani converted the second try.
Prop Anthony Bate was first to a ball that bounced off an upright. Ridyard’s goal cut Eagles lead to 16-14 at half-time and he levelled the scores with a penalty after the restart.
Eagles prop Liam Higgins and Leigh’s Steven Maden were shown red cards for fighting before points came in a rush.
Brambani restored Eagles’ lead with a penalty and Quentin Laulu-Togagae followed a try-saving tackle by providing the pass for Scott Turner to go in at the corner. Brambani added the goal.
At 24-16 the Eagles should have had control but a chance to extend the lead was spawned and Leigh hit them with two quick tries. An interception led to Tom Spencer going over and Little was given an easy path to the line.
Eagles hit the buffers as Sean Penkywicz went in from dummy half. Brierley added a drop goal and tries from the half-back and Tommy Goulden wrapped it up. Ridyard finished with seven goals.
On the hooter Tom Armstrong scored a try but it was no consolation on a poor day for Eagles.
Eagles: Laulu-Togagae; Turner, Yere, Armstrong, Taulapapa; Walker, Brambani; Battye, Henderson, Stringer, Garside, Straugheir, Hirst. Subs: Davey, Knowles, Higgins, Green.
Tries: Garside 15, Yere 35, Taulapapa 38, Turner 52, Armstrong 80.
Goals: Brambani 4/6.
Leigh: McNally; Maden, Littler, Gardner, Pownall; Ridyard, Brierley; Ostick, Beswick, Spencer, Finnigan, Goulden, Hopkins. Subs: Penkywicz, Thornley, Bate, Parker.
Tries: Littler 30, 63, Bate 39, Spencer 60, Penkywicz 68, Brierley 74, Goulden 78.
Goals: Ridyard 7/9. Drop Goal: Brierley (72min)
Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow.