THERE’S a lot more at stake than three league points when Sheffield Eagles travel to Hunslet Hawks on Sunday.
With the clubs drawn to meet in the quarter-finals of the Northern Rail Cup it’s a chance to establish a psychological advantage.
Coach Mark Aston says Hunslet will have been playing mind games in the run up to the game.
“Hunslet will want to set down a marker before the quarter final,” he said. “It’s a psychological game.
“We won’t be talking about the Rail Cup game but I’ll bet Hunslet will and about making a benchmark – but if we can go there and win then they will know the answer.”
The Eagles are clear favourites to extend their unbeaten five-game run after last weekend’s 56-22 hammering of Swinton.
The pressure is on to keep the momentum going with rival coaches targeting the Eagles as the team to beat.
Aston said: “The thing is that now when we play a team it’s all about knocking Eagles off their perch.
“Swinton talked about beating us and putting down a benchmark before last weekend’s game and if we’re classing ourselves as a top team this year we have to make sure we go and do a professional job.
“We are doing that for a large part of the game but not for 80 minutes.”
Aston is considering adding extra power off the subs bench with prop Liam Higgins available. Centre Misi Taulapapa will have a late fitness test tonight on a dead leg. Winger Tim Bergin is close to a return after injury and may come in.
He said: “Hunslet are in your face and spoiling and if you let them get to you they will frustrate you. It’s about us keeping the standards we’ve set.”
Hunslet lost 44-18 at Halifax and coach Barry Eaton has his first-choice half-backs Danny Grimshaw and Aaron Dobek facing long spells on the sidelines.
Danny Allen, signed from Featherstone this season, and the experienced David March are likely to take the playmaker role. Full back Danny Ratcliffe will be a danger coming into the line and utility back Scott Watson had a brief spell at the Eagles last season.