SHEFFIELD Eagles were taken to the wire by a battling Workington team before they clinched a win in their opening game of the season.
The Eagles looked rusty and error prone before they overpowered the Cumbrians in the final 10 minutes of a bruising encounter in the group stage of the Northern Rail Cup.
“We looked like a team that hadn’t been able or get outside to train this week because of the weather,” said coach Mark Aston. “They played the conditions very well. We were edgy and a bit under cooked but the second 40 minutes we stuck in there and they didn’t breach our line which is a positive. This is a good game to win because as a team we didn’t get started.”
Eagles gave a first competitive game to new signings centre Nev Morrison, and back rower Michael Knowles plus scrum-half Dominic Brambani and prop Liam Higgins who returned to the club this season.
Misi Taulapapa got the vote to start at fullback with fellow Samoan international Quentin Laulu-Togagae on the bench.
Town staged an early charge but the Eagles soaked up the pressure and started to come into the game before they were caught by a break from Elliot Miller whose pass sent former Eagles centre Jason Mossop in at the corner for the opening try.
Workington strong tackling broke up Eagles moves with final crucial passes being smothered. Henderson and winger Vinny Finigan was just forced into touch in the corner as the Eagles desperately tried to break back.
Again Eagles were hit on the break as Mossop twice chipped ahead and stand-off Brett Carter won the chase to touchdown. Carl Forber added the goal.
It was difficult to see where the Eagles were going to create a try as the half-backs Brambani and Simon Brown struggled to get their kicking game going.
Aston attempted to inject new ideas by interchanges.Laulu-Togagae on at fullback provided the spark and approaching the final 10 minutes of the half substitute back rower Sam Scott produced, forcing his way over the line. Brown added the goal. In the last 30 seconds Town were given a penalty with Forber kicking from 35 metres to give the home team a 14-6 lead at the half-time.
Taulapapa provided the boost the Eagles needed soon after the restart following up a Laulu-Togagae chip kick. Brown’s attempted conversion hit an upright.
The Eagles struggled for possession until on 60 minutes props Jack Howieson and Ryan Hepworth took the ball forward and hooker Andrew Henderson marked an outstanding performance by squeezing over from dummy half. Brown added the goal and the Eagles were ahead for the first time at 16-14.
In the latter stages, Morrison and Alex Szostak also went over to seal the victory.