THERE isn’t a better way to end a season. Sheffield Eagles lift their first Co-operative Championship Grand Final trophy.
Really it had to happen. It was South Yorkshire’s day at the Halliwell Jones Stadium last Sunday.
Doncaster had set the standard by winning the Championship One Grand Final a couple of hours before. The Dons had looked lethargic at half-time but they came back and found the spirit of winners to edge out Barrow Raiders 16-13.
The stage was set for the Eagles who went into their second successive final against Featherstone Rovers as underdogs. They had battled through three tough play-off rounds and had to face a Rovers team who after finishing top of the league had the easy one-game route to the final. Featherstone have dominated the competition for three seasons losing only five league games in that time.
Eagles supporters, nestled in a corner of the stadium, were outnumbered by the Fev flat-cap army at the opposite end of the ground.
There was hope but also the memory of 12 months ago when Rovers cruised to an easy win.
The fans didn’t need to worry. If Rovers play is based on organisation and discipline the Eagles could match it and add flair and excitement when the backs were given space.
Hardened by the play-off rounds, the players had the belief and backed it by opting for only £50 if they lost. They only ever intended to take home winning pay - boosted to around four figures by an injection of cash on finals’ day from a club sponsor.
Win they did and in style with great moments to remember. Scott Turner’s amazing pass as he was tackled sending Quentin Laulu-Togagae racing to try 35 of the season.
Dom Brambani’s perfect kick to put Misi Taulapapa in for the try took them into a 20-16 winning lead. Worth a trip to Warrington on a rainy day!
Coach Mark Aston says his team don’t always get the recognition they deserve and that provides the motivation. The same has to be true of the Doncaster.
South Yorkshire has the two best teams in rugby league outside the Super League – that’s official … look at the names on the trophies.
Remember, in the days before rugby league fell for the licensing con it would have been promotion to the Super League.
Sadly some people in rugby league still won’t see the facts. A Cumbrian radio journalist grumpily mumbled about teams in the Championship that can’t raise 1,000 fans between them for a Grand Final. What a negative attitude. Those fans have stayed loyal and were getting their reward.
Creating an audience for rugby league in South Yorkshire is the challenge. The Eagles and the Dons have laid the foundations with teams that know how to win.