FROM tonight Sheffield Eagles’ season comes down to what happens in 80 minutes of must-win rugby.
They have to make home advantage count against Widnes Vikings at Bramall Lane in the first play-off elimination round, kick-off 7.45pm.
A win takes the first step towards the glory of Championship Grand Final – defeat means it’s the end of the line and time to start planning for a new season.
“This season has been a massive success finishing fourth in the league with a small squad. Now we’re into a different phase and it’s simple - one game and win it you’re in it, lose it and you’re out of it,” said coach Mark Aston
A decision on the team line-up is being delayed with the squad hit by injuries and centre Menzie Yere suspended. Half-back Simon Brown, whose kicking game could be vital, is struggling with a ‘dead leg’. Physio Mick Heys is also being kept busy with prop Mitch Stringer nursing a knee problem, plus utility player Dane McDonald and back row forward Sam Scott both with shoulder injuries.
Samoan international Quentin Laulu-Togage may start at either half-back or full back depending on who is fit. Misi Taulapapa playing what could be his final game before moving to Hull KR will be needed in the centres with local teenager Corey Hanson. “We’re a bit battered but we’ll put 17 players out who will be determined to get a result” said Aston. “There’s lads waiting their chance: Jonny Woodcock, Eddie Battye, Danny Mills and Jamie Cottle.”
Widnes are Eagles bogey team – winning all ten league games the clubs have played in the last five seasons. But priority for the Vikings is the move to the Super League next season. Performances have suffered in recent weeks and they look vulnerable.
Stringer said: “We don’t think about the past but what we have achieved this year.
“We want it more than they do, we’ve got more motivation, they have already ticked their boxes with the Super League, now it’s our turn to tick a few boxes and get to a Grand Final.”