Eagles fairytale return to Owlerton is washed out

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Sheffield Eagles opening game of the season and historic return to Owlerton Stadium fell victim to the winter storms.

The Championship clash with Rochdale Hornets yesterday would have mirrored the Eagles first ever game in 1984.

The game was postponed after a pitch inspection by referee Dave Merrick on Saturday lunchtime.

Pools of standing water made the pitch unplayable for rugby with Merrick’s verdict: “you could play water polo on it”.

The Eagles had been expecting a big crowd after a surge of interest in their return to Owlerton after 25 years based at Don Valley Stadium.

Andy Giles, Eagles general manager, said it was a “massive disappointment” but an early decision had to be taken in the interests of the fans of both clubs.

“The condition of the pitch had made the game doubtful and we have been beaten by the weather,” he said. “A lot of hard work has been put in to get the pitch ready but the weather has been atrocious. I arranged an early inspection on Saturday because I knew the match was in grave doubt and did not want to leave it until Sunday morning so the fans and sponsors would know in good time and not have any wasted time.”

The Championship title-holders will now start their season away to Swinton Lions next Sunday with the first home game against Barrow Raiders on Sunday 2 March.

The club have been working for months to bring the pitch at Owlerton back into shape for rugby but the storms of the past week hit those efforts. The high winds on Wednesday bent the newly-erected rugby posts and even yesterday’s break in the weather would not have made the game playable.

Giles added: “This is one game and it will be rearranged later in the season. We have to hope for an upturn in the weather in the next two weeks and all will be fine when Barrow come here.”