Free-scoring Eagles look Grand Final contenders

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HALF-WAY in the season and it’s looking good for rugby league in South Yorkshire with both our clubs up near the top of their leagues.

If you’re a Sheffield Eagles supporter, I wouldn’t be planning to take a late-summer holiday. Leave Grand Final day – Sunday 30 September – free in your diary.

Doncaster are well on track for promotion riding second in their competition. Four places are up for grabs in an expanded Championship next season and it needs a second South Yorkshire club.

Tony Miller, the Dons coach, is doing a great job and hopefully we’ll soon be enjoying real derby games again.

Perhaps then the blinkered bosses at the RFL might realise that putting resources into developing the game in our area will pay dividends.

Watching the Eagles you can’t complain about the entertainment. There are tries a plenty – although at times they were going in at the wrong end of the field.

If it was a school report the verdict on the Eagles might be: ‘Potentially a high flyer who can produce original and innovative work but drifts off at times in class.’

Class teacher Mark Aston has been addressing that problem and there has been a marked improvement in the defence.

Dewsbury and Batley provided a good marker in the last two league games and the Eagles came through conceding only five tries. If that kind of determination can be repeated, no problem.

When it comes to offence you can make a strong case for the Eagles being the most exciting and innovative team in the league – the only team to have scored more than 300 points in the first half of the Championship season.

A lot of that is down to Aston’s recruitment policy in pre-season. The Eagles were in a position to sign their own players and not rely on dual reg loans from the Super League to fill gaps.

That’s seen a settled half-back partnership between Simon Brown and Dom Brambani – who is a massively more influential and mature player than in his first spell at the club.

Michael Knowles has added to an impressive pack. He’s a players-player who gets through a lot of work on the left side of the attack. As a result, Menzie Yere is being brought more into the games in positions where his power can bust any defence.

Top try scorer Quentin Laulu-Togagae must be already pencilled in as the Championship player of the year. He’s revelling in the freedom of playing at fullback – you don’t know what’s coming next and no opposition can plan for his flair.

A test of the Eagles hopes comes with the trip to Leigh Centurions tomorrow night.

The Lancashire lads with Halifax were winners on their visits to Sheffield – in Leigh’s case 34-32 with a disputed late penalty.

A win at the Sports Village will take the Eagles back to the top of the league, albeit briefly, but more importantly it will confirm the improvement of recent games. The pressure is on but it’s the right sort of pressure.