SHEFFIELD Eagles produced a thrilling performance to win their first Championship Grand Final in a game where the lead see-sawed dramatically.
The Eagles wiped out the memory of last season’s defeat by Featherstone as they refused to be beaten to take a winning lead midway through the second half.
Back rower Michael Knowles put in a man-of-the match performance that typified the determination and unselfish effort of the team.
Winger Scott Turner scored the first try and was strong in defence. Forwards Mitch Stringer and Liam Higgins put in big sets with Quentin Laulu-Togagae and Misi Taulapapa and Dane McDonald scoring crucial tries.
Eagles almost got off to a dream start when Sam Scott went over but the score was ruled out for offside by the video referee.
There was no need to consult the TV playback as the Eagles took the lead on 10 minutes. Simon Brown put in a short pass to Menzie Yere with the centre using his strength before offloading to winger Scott Turner who went over for the try.
Rovers found a gap with full-back Ian Hardman running on to a short pass from Andy Kain for the try and Liam Finn’s goal edged them into the lead. Eagles had a double escape as first Laulu-Togage misjudged a Finn high kick but managed to rescue the situation then winger Tommy Saxton had ‘try’ rule out for a forward pass.
Points were going to be hard-earned and Finn edged Rovers further ahead with a penalty.
Eagles came back with a great try. After taking Misi Taulapapa’s pass Turner somehow got the ball away as he was tackled for Laulu-Togagae, backing up, to race 50 metres to the line. Brown added the goal to give Eagles a 10-8 lead at half-time.
Torrential rain swept across Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium as Finn levelled the score with a penalty soon after the restart.
Eagles came back with Brown providing a chip kick that Rovers failed to clear for Dane McDonald to touchdown.
Again Rovers took back the lead with Jon Hepworth on the back of second set forcing his way over and Finn adding the goal.
Eagles, helped by a couple of penalties, laid siege to the Rovers’ line and a perfectly timed kick to the right by Dominic Brambane was collected by the diving Misi Taulapapa for a spectacular try. Brown’s goal put the Eagles four points ahead.
It was a long final quarter as Eagles grimly held on to their lead with Brown missing a penalty attempt with six minutes left.
Featherstone: Hardman; Ropati, Chappell, Worthington, Saxton; Kain, Finn; England, Kaye, Lockwood, Dale, Spears, Briggs. Subs: Hepworth, Bostock, Maloney, Dickens.
Tries: Hardman, 22, Hepworth, 53.
Goals: Finn: 4/4.
Eagles: Laulu-Togagae; Taulapapa, Straugheir, Yere, Turner; Brown, Brambani; Howieson, Henderson, Stringer, Knowles, Scott, Szostak. Subs: Davey, McDonald, Green, Higgins.
Tries: Turner, 10, Laulu-Togagae, 31, McDonald, 46, Taulapapa, 62.
Goals: Brown 2/5
Referee: Tim Roby.