Sheffield Eagles run in the Challenge Cup was ended for another year despite a brave display in their 12–34 defeat to Super League outfit Hull FC at Bramall Lane.
Despite trailing by 22 points at the interval the Eagles produced a stirring comeback in the second half to give their illustrious opponents a real scare following tries from Cory Aston and Menzie Yere, before the visitors finally closed the game out late on to book their place in round six.
Director of Rugby Mark Aston maintained his promise to only make subtle changes to his team despite two huge games in the Championship on the horizon. Winger Rob Worrincy made an expected return to the side and there were also starts for John Davies and Steve Thorpe at the expense of Michael Knowles, Pat Walker and the banned Tony Tonks.
The Eagles, back in Sheffield for the first time this season, stood toe-to-toe with their Super League opponents in a cagey opening to the game, and came close to stunning the visitors on nine minutes when Worrincy darted to the line but he was held after great defending by Liam Watts.
The Eagles were looking comfortable but against the run of play they were dealt a hammer blow when Hull took the lead.
A barnstorming break from veteran Leon Pryce moved the visitors close to the line and on the next play Mark Minichiello dived over. Jordan Rankin missed the conversion attempt.
The try settled any Hull nerves and they visibly upped the tempo resulting in a second try soon after when Mickey Paea barged over as the Black and Whites looked set to take command. Rankin converted.
Any hopes of an upset were now fading fast as Tom Lineham bullied his way over from dummy half to score followed by an easy run-in for Jamie Shaul after good work from Pryce. Rankin converted both tries for a 22-0 lead.
The Eagles started the second period in the ascendancy with Kyle Briggs being stopped just short of the line as Aston’s side refused to throw the towel in.
The home side were rewarded for their persistence and deservedly registered their first score of the afternoon with a well worked try. A lightning fast break from Quentin Laulu-Togagae got the Eagles into prime position before Aston showed terrific fleet-of-foot to squeeze his way through for a slick finish. Dom Brambani was successful with the conversion.
That wasn’t the end of the scoring as a kick on the last by Laulu-Togagae caused havoc in the Hull defence and Yere snaffled the loose ball to crash over to give the hosts a chance of an unlikely revival. Brambani converted.
It could have been closer when Scott Turner was denied a try after a forward pass from Aston before Hull sealed the game through two late tries from Kirk Yeaman and Rankin to safely move into the next round.
Eagles: Laulu-Togagae; Turner, Yere, Smeaton, Worrincy, Briggs, Aston, Battye, Carlile, Thorpe, Davies, Langley, Taulapapa. Interchange: Brambani, Blagbrough, Musolino, Stringer.
Scorers: Tries: Aston (57), Yere (61) Goals: Brambani 2/2
Hull FC: Shaul; Lineham, Michaels, Talanoa, Naughton, Pryce, Rankin, Paea, Houghton, Wattas, Sa, Minichiello, Thompson. Interchange: Palea’aesina, Tyson-Wilson, Yeaman, Howarth.
Scorers: Tries: Minichiello (16), Paea (21), Lineham (27), Shaul (35), Yeaman (74), Rankin (77) Goals: Rankin 5/6
Referee: George Stokes