The dominance held by Super League teams over Rugby League’s chasing pack is slowly being eroded, according to Sheffield Eagles Director of Rugby Mark Aston.
The Eagles supremo watched his side stand tall in the face of Super League opposition in the Challenge Cup on Sunday, when his side matched Hull FC for long spells before going down to a flattering scoreline of 34-12 at Bramall Lane.
Elsewhere fellow Championship side Halifax gave Super League’s basement side Wakefield a real scare before being defeated, whilst Leigh Centurions pulled off a major surprise by dumping high-flying Salford out of the competition after a 22-18 success.
With teams from the top four of the Championship set to do battle with the bottom four of Super League at the end of the season for the right to be seated at Rugby League’s top table, Aston has taken huge confidence that the Championship’s top clubs can mix it with Super League opposition.
“The gap is narrowing isn’t it? Hull are certainly not a bottom four team, they will be pushing further up the table so it gives us the confidence to push onto that next stage and there will be sides up there that are looking over their shoulders,” Aston told The Star.
“It keeps people guessing, people should know now that we can compete. All the clubs at the top end of The Championship can be pleased and be confident going into the ‘middle eight’ at the end of the season.
“The gap is definitely shrinking and for me Leigh beating Salford isn’t a surprise, also I know Halifax did a really good job on Friday night and the scoreline flattered Wakefield. The scoreline also flattered Hull against us, the last two tries in the final 10 minutes gave a 34-12 scoreline, but it was much closer than that in the second half.”
Leigh’s victory over Salford extends their incredible winning run to 21 matches and the result will no doubt give credence to the opinion that they are in with a genuine chance of making the step up.
The Eagles will take huge confidence from their narrow defeat to Leigh in the recent league encounter, plus their performance against a Hull side packed with quality operators.
Meanwhile, the Eagles home fixture with Dewsbury on May 17th will get a new date as the Rams host Warrington Wolves over the same weekend in the sixth round of the Challenge Cup.