Storming Eagles

Glory boys: Halifax can't stop Eagles' Dane McDonald bursting through for a second half try.'       Picture: Steve ellis
Glory boys: Halifax can't stop Eagles' Dane McDonald bursting through for a second half try.' Picture: Steve ellis
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SHEFFIELD Eagles stormed their way into the semi-finals of the Championship Play-offs on a wave of attacking rugby.

As heavy rain deluged Bramall Lane the Eagles washed away Halifax with eight tries.

It was the final home appearance for Misi Taulapapa and he made it one to remember helping set up a couple of tries before scoring a spectacular touch down.

“The lads are playing on top of their game and playing with a smile on their face – they were outstanding. We wanted to give Misi a send–off and thank our fans for a great season,” said Aston.

The Eagles avenged defeat by Halifax in the semi-finals last season. They will travel to Leigh Centurions on Thursday for a game that will decide who goes to the Grand Final.

The forwards dominated possession and the Halifax pack. Jack Howieson, Mitch Stringer and Peter Green put in big spells and Alex Szostak played a full 80 minutes. On the back of that almost total ball control tries had to come.

Less than a minute into the game the Eagles were ahead when Simon Brown kicked a penalty. Halifax came back with a Jon Goddard try in the corner with Danny Jones adding the goal. That was to be the end of their challenge as the Eagles took control.

Centre Taulapapa slipped a tackle from James Haley before passing inside for fellow Samoan international Quentin Laulu-Togagae to finish the job.

Straight from the restart kick Mitch Stringer took the ball and burst through the Fax line to start a dazzling passing move that ended with a try for loose-forward Joe Hirst. Brown kicked both goals.

Eagles increased their lead with hooker Andrew Henderson going in under the posts from dummy half and giving Brown another simple conversion.

As the rain started to bucket down Taulapapa passed out of the tackle to Dane McDonald who almost strolled over. Brown added the goal from the touchline for a 26-6 lead at half-time.

Hooker Sean Penkywicz gave Fax brief hope by finishing a passing move to squeeze across the line.

Then the rain lifted, out came the sun (briefly) and back came the Eagles with McDonald benefiting from poor tackling to force his way over the try line from 10 metres out.

Brown added the goal and then was gifted a penalty in front of the posts for holding down.

It got worse for Fax as following a penalty Henderson was given a clear run to the line from 10 metres.

Sam Barlow, who had been on the end of some hard tackles from his former Eagles team-mates, was sin binned for dissent on 65 minutes.

Taulapapa made Fax pay as he produced a brilliantly-timed angled run and dive for a try to mark his final home game for the Eagles. Brown added the goal.

Jonny Woodcock squeezed in for a try two minutes from time and Brown’s goal brought up the 50 points for Sheffield.

On the hooter Brown tried a long-range penalty that hit the cross bar.

Eagles: Laulu-Togagae; Finigan, Taulapapa, Hanson, Bergin; McDonald, Brown; Howieson, Henderson, Stringer, Szostak, Green, Hirst. Subs: Woodcock, Smith, Scott, Hepworth.

Tries: Laulu-Togagae, 11, Hirst, 13, Henderson, 20, 62, McDonald, 27, 54, Taulapapa, 66, Woodcock, 78.

Goals: Brown 9/11.

Halifax: Fieldhouse; White, Goddard, Haley, Worrincy; Jones, Beswick; Gannon, Penkywicz, Sam Barlow, Clayton, Bannister, Smith. Subs: Black, Josh Barlow, Cherryholme, Chandler.

Tries: Goddard, 6, Penkwywicz, 50.

Goals: Jones 2/2.

Referee: Matt Thomason.

Penalties: 11-12.

Attendance: 1,233.