Sheffield Eagles quest for a top four finish is set to be severely tested ahead of a crunch double-header in the Championship starting this Sunday.
Third place Eagles host Halifax at the Keepmoat tomorrow (4.15pm) before taking on second-placed Bradford next weekend.
The Eagles have only tasted defeat twice in nine games in the league this season, and have proved that they are genuine top four contenders after coming close to toppling unbeaten Leigh in their last league outing.
After another encouraging display in defeat in the Challenge Cup last weekend, Director of Rugby Mark Aston will be hoping to build on some positives performances against a Halifax side who joined the Eagles in the top four after back-to-back league victories.
“This is what it is all about; these are the games that we want to be involved in,” Aston said. “We have had a couple of tough games in the league against Featherstone and Leigh, and then we had a tough game in the cup with Hull.
“Now we have Halifax and following that we travel to Bradford, it doesn’t get any easier but these are the top quality teams that you want to play against.
“It is fantastic to be playing at this level and challenging ourselves, we were disappointed not to get the results in the last two games, we need to play that little bit smarter and if we do that we will get the results we are looking for.”
Meanwhile, there was good news on the injury front with Aston revealing that second-rower Duane Straugheir could return within the next couple of weeks.
Straugheir has been out for a month with a hamstring strain but he has stepped up this recovery this week as he looks to get back into Aston’s plans.
“Duane is coming along quite nicely now, he is back doing his rehabilitation,” Aston confirmed.
“Provided that we are happy with what we have seen we will hope to see him back within the next couple of weeks. It isn’t just about getting back to fitness though; he has to get back into the side which isn’t going to be easy. Competition for places will hopefully get the best out of him and the other players too; will he be good enough to get back in? That will be up to him.”