Sheffield Eagles are in Challenge Cup action this weekend - giving Mark Aston’s men a chance to step back after a solid start in the league.
Coach Aston can reflect on four wins out of five and the best defence record in the competition leaving his team tucked in nicely to third place.
That doesn’t mean it’s been smooth going. A team that has struggled to kick goals was thankful that a penalty provided the margin in a 14-12 win at Workington.
Aston recognises the warning signs and hasn’t held back from changing a winning team seeking the right blend.
The forward pack with the introduction of Steve Thorpe and Tony Tonks is more dominant and that’s put the focus on the key decision making roles.
Uncompromising defence provides a platform but after edging ahead games must be put out of the reach of the opposition.
“We have been getting results without really playing well and the top teams in the Championship would have made us pay in these matches,” said Aston.
“We need to step up our performances so far. It isn’t good enough even though we have won four out of five.”
At Workington Cory Aston was paired with Kyle Briggs at half-back with Dominic Brambani left out. Winger Rob Worrincy’s extra pace was accommodated by Misi Taulapapa starting at loose-forward.
Menzie Yere scored the first try but the crucial points came either side of half-time when the Eagles were down to 12 men with Michael Knowles in the sin bin.
Briggs took advantage of Derwent Park’s short pitch to kick a penalty from the halfway line on 40 minutes and made it three goals converting Sam Smeaton’s try soon after the restart.
Two tries from Town made it an anxious final ten minutes.
With Aston commenting “there’s a lot of improvement called for” the 17 could be juggled again for Oldham’s visit to the Keepmoat, on Sunday (kick-off 3pm), as the Eagles join the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup at the fourth round stage.
Don’t expect radical experiments with progress in the Cup offering the potential of a bank balance boosting draw as Super League teams feed into the competition in the next two rounds.
Sunday’s game will not be the usual run out against a set of amateurs.
Oldham have one of the strongest squads in Championship 1 with hooker Gareth Owen, who scored five tries in 15 games for the Eagles on loan from Salford last season, and are inventive at half-back with Lewis Palfrey and Steve Roper.