Halifax 18 Sheffield Eagles 17: Eagles slip to agonising defeat in Championship opener
Sheffield Eagles were denied an opening day victory at the death after a last gasp Oliver Roberts try snatched a 18-17 success for hosts Halifax.
The Eagles worked hard for their lead and looked set for a winning start to the 2020 Championship, but late tries from Jason Saltonstall and Roberts earned Fax a dramatic win.
Director of rugby Mark Aston named six of his close season signings in his 17, but there was no place for Scott Wheeldon who failed to overcome a knee issue.
Halifax produced a strong start with Conor McGrath diving over in the corner, but Steve Tyrer missed the extras.
The Eagles slowly grew into the contest and after a sustained period of pressure levelled proceedings on 17 minutes. After the home side were adjudged to have knocked on from Izaac Farrell’s grubber, the Eagles capitalised as the ball went through the hands before Ryan Millar finished in the corner. Izaac Farrell failed to add the extras.
Fax lost Kevin Larroyer to the bin after a dangerous tackle, but appeared to stem the pressure before, from nowhere, the Eagles hit the front.
There appeared little trouble for the hosts when Scott Murrell prepared to kick on halfway, but Robbie Ward was quickly in to charge down and then sprint 50 metres to kick forward and touch down for a converted debut try.
The Eagles immediately came under intense pressure at the start of the second half, with Josh Guzdek producing a sensational try-saving tackle to deny Paul Brearley.
Aston’s side continued to repel the Halifax momentum but a stubborn defence was finally breached when Murrell’s high cross-field kick was collected by Steve Tyrer who touched down before converting for a level game.
The Eagles responded instantly with Joel Farrell running strongly onto a short pass to crash over from close range, with brother Izaac adding the extras.
Izaac Farrell increased the lead to seven points with a drop goal, but Saltonstall’s unconverted try with six minutes remaining quickly narrowed the gap.
With just 90 seconds remaining the home side won it as Roberts crossed to spark wild celebrations amongst the team in blue.