South Yorkshire pride is on the line when Sheffield Eagles and Doncaster meet in the Northern Rail Cup semi-final tonight.
The drama is being played out on a training pitch in the shadow of the Keepmoat but that won’t take the edge off the most important derby for years. “Everyone wants to play in a final” said Eagles’ coach Mark Aston. “Winning is everything. It’ll be a humdinger.”
The game is being played at the Athletics Stadium (7.30pm) because the Keepmoat is unavailable. The players will change in the main stadium and walk across to the pitch. “I’m not happy with the pitch. It doesn’t fit the billing as the venue for the semi-final of an important competition,” said Aston. “But we’ve never been to a Rail Cup final; it was one of our targets at the start of the season.”
Eagles go into the game as big favourites after winning their last 13 games. Doncaster are struggling just above the relegation zone after being promoted to the Championship and lost 32-26 to the Eagles in the league. But in former Super League half-back Paul Cooke they have a game-changer.
Aston said: “This is a one-off. They’ll have lots of confidence and belief. Paul Cooke is certainly a massive threat.
“They are a dangerous team and we’ll be respectful. When we played them at Don Valley it was a real arm-wrestle.”
Aston may bring in prop forward Eddie Battye to provide impact early in the game.
He added: “There are one of two I’d like to give a week off but is a Cup semi-final the right time?”