Sheffield Eagles’ top four ambitions suffered a major setback after a 38-10 defeat to fellow contenders Halifax at The Shay.
The Eagles knew a win would almost certainly give them a place in the middle eight, but Mark Aston’s side were second best for much of the contest and now face a real battle to cement their place in the top four.
Halifax’s win moves them to within two points of Aston’s side, and they appear to be finding form at the right time, to put Sheffield under real pressure with three rounds remaining.
Aston made changes to his side with the fit-again Mitchell Stringer returning alongside Keal Carlile and Dominic Brambani. Sam Smeaton and Cory Aston were both suspended.
Sheffield stamped their authority on the fixture with the opening try after seven minutes.
Kyle Briggs showed terrific balance with a weaving run which took him over the line, and he converted to give the Eagles an early lead.
Back came Fax and after Quentin Laulu-Togagae spilled the ball in the tackle right on his own line, Tommy Saxton profited by grounding the loose ball. Steve Tyrer missed the conversion.
The home side turned the screw and when the Eagles were penalised for an illegal ball strip in front of the posts, Scott Murrell switched the play to find Ben Heaton who charged over. Tyrer missed the extras.
Worse was to follow for the visitors when Dane Manning crossed the line to score after a piercing break by Ben Johnston. Tyrer converted for a 14-6 lead.
Fax took full command of the game at the start of the second stanza, when Johnston’s kick on the last was snaffled by Manning for his second try. Tyrer added the extras.
With torrential rain, thunder and lightning making conditions difficult, the Eagles were shocked back into life, when Stringer barged over to score. Briggs made a hash of the conversion.
Fax didn’t crumble though and hit back with two tries to end the contest.
First Ben Kaye swivelled well to squeeze over, and then Connor Robinson darted in down the left, with Tyrer converting both tries.
Robinson then grabbed his second try with a late score after an 80 metre dash, Tyrer again converted.
The Eagles host Bradford next week, knowing the Bulls have lost just twice all season.
Halifax: Saltonstall; Potts, Heaton, Tyrer, Saxton, Johnston, Murrell, Tangata, Kaye, Cahalane, Divorty, Manning, Moore. Interchange: Bracek, A. Robinson, C. Robinson, Cox.
Scorers: Tries: Saxton (14), Heaton (34, 41), Manning (40), Kaye (61), C. Robinson (64, 72) Goals: Tyrer 4/6
Eagles: Laulu-Togagae; Turner, Yere, Straugheir, Taulapapa, Briggs, Brambani, Thorpe, Carlile, Stringer, Knowles, Langley, Walker. Interchange: Davey, Battye, Davies, Tonks.
Scorers: Tries: Briggs (7), Stringer (57) Goals: Briggs 1/2
Referee: Chris Kendall