It isn’t often this season that Sheffield Eagles go into a game as second favourites to take the two points – but that will be the forecast at Championship leaders Leigh.
A third place with a six-point cushion over the chasing pack is testimony that they are the best of the part-time clubs.
But three of their four defeats have come against full-time squads and earlier in the season they failed to halt the march of the Centurions, losing 36-22.
The Lancashire team lost their unbeaten record a couple of weeks ago as predicted by Eagles’ boss Mark Aston, but that could come back to haunt him
He said: “They will be firing, and will probably be smarting from a comment I made about being ‘ready to crack’. It happened and that will have refocused them as it did for us when we got a slap on the chops by London.
“We got our heads down and started working hard and that’s what it will have done for Leigh.”
The Centurions have resources Aston can only dream of, spending big during the season to plug gaps with the signing of Super League stars Gareth Hock and Mick Higham.
Leigh came back from their loss with a 26-12 win at Batley in a feisty encounter that saw Hock spend two spells in the sin bin.
Following their last defeat, also to the Broncos, Sheffield have won three but with performances that leave lingering doubts.
They made hard work of beating relegation threatened Whitehaven 26-12 at Doncaster Knight’s impressive Castle Park ground – the third ‘home’ venue this season. The flow of the game wasn’t helped as the teams shared 16 penalties in the first half –that’s what comes of playing at a rugby union ground (actually poor game management by the referee).
Sheffield took a 16-4 lead with tries from Quentin Laulu-Togagae, Kyle Briggs and Misi Taulapapa. In the second half the advantage was allowed to disappear but that jolted the team into action. Stand-off Briggs asserted himself and they pulled away with a Scott Turner try. The industrious Taulapapa finished it off with his second and Briggs kicked three goals.
That left Aston pondering changes for Sunday, at the Sports Village (kick-off 3pm), saying: “We got the start of the game right but the rest of it we probably didn’t. We are playing in fits and starts.”
He added: “If we turn up (at Leigh) with that sort of attitude we’ll get beat by 50 and that’s not good enough.”