Sheffield Eagles are celebrating their first major trophy since their famous 1998 Challenge Cup final win over Wigan after overcoming reigning champions Featherstone in the Co-operative Championship Grand Final, writes Dom Howson
The Eagles, who finished fourth in the table, scored four tries to two to stun the favourites and atone for their humiliating 40-4 defeat by them in last year’s final at the same Warrington venue.
Rovers were highly fancied to become first team to retain the title since the competition was introduced in 1998 but instead suffered their second defeat in three years after failing to get to grips with the wet conditions and determined opponents.
Sheffield’s Pacific Island trio of Menzie Yere, Quentin Laula-Togagae and Misi Taulapa provided the flair but second rower Michael Knowles earned the man-of-the-match award for his non-stop graft.
The Eagles, who went into the game on the back of a five-match unbeaten run, sent out a warning of their intent when second rower Sam Scott went over after only three minutes but had his try disallowed by video referee Steve Ganson for offside.
They duly went ahead shortly afterwards after Yere’s blockbusting run created a try for impressive winger Scott Turner, although Rovers drew level through full-back Ian Hardman and edged in front with two goals from the ever-reliable Liam Finn.
However, Featherstone had their hands full coping with Papua New Guinea international Yere, who smashed through their defence again nine minutes before half-time, with Turner this time supplying the final pass for Laula-Togagae to finish off a glorious 70-metre move with his 21st try of the season.
Simon Brown’s first goal made it 10-8 at the break and, as the rain began to fall in the second half, Finn brought his side level with a penalty as Featherstone decided to take any points on offer.
The two sides then traded tries, with Sheffield substitute Dane McDonald touching down Brown’s kick and Rovers loose forward Jonny Hepworth forcing his way over on the slippery turf, with Finn kicking his fourth goal from as many attempts.
The lead changed hands for a fourth time on 57 minutes when winger Taulapapa raced on to Dominic Brambani’s kick and Brown’s angled conversion gave the Eagles a four-point cushion.
Brown missed a chance to put further daylight between the teams when he failed with a penalty to leave him with just two successes from five goal attempts but it was enough to give Sheffield a deserved victory.
Read tomorrow’s Star for full report, analysis and reaction.