Sheffield Eagles play off challenge

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Sheffield Eagles boss Mark Aston has challenged his players to improve further as they begin their play-off campaign on Saturday, at the Keepmoat stadium, against Batley Bulldogs.

The Eagles recorded a comfortable 16-58 victory at Rochdale Hornets on Sunday, including five tries for Samoan full-back Quentin Laulu-Togagae, but the scoreline didn’t tell the full story with just one try scored in the opening 20 minutes of the game, and a failure to register any points in the second half until the 66th minute.

Aston said: “It’s the business end of the season now, and what I’m saying to the players is ‘when do you want your season to end?’ If we carry on doing what we are then someone is going to smack us in the chops and take the game away. There was one stage in the second half when we were running at 30% ball control. I’ve challenged them to hit 80%, which we haven’t managed yet. We played Rochdale recently and beat them 48-0; we spoke about respect and I thought there was a lack of it in the opening stages of both halves.

“We kept our composure, though, and we know we can play and score tries. It was a good win and gives us confidence.”

The Eagles have found form in the latter stages of the season, with Sunday’s victory their sixth on the bounce. However, the run came too late in the year to force a way into the Championship’s top four, meaning there will be no second chance if they lose in the play-offs.

Only four consecutive wins will secure a third Championship title in a row, and Aston says his side must be on the ball from first whistle to last.

He added: “I’m still looking for that perfect performance. We were outstanding for 40 minutes against Featherstone then went away. If you’re going to get to a Grand Final, then you have to be more consistent throughout 80 minutes.”