Rugby League: Sheffield Eagles sweat over key duo

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SHEFFIELD Eagles will give late fitness tests to top try scorer Quentin Laulu-Togagae and Misi Taulapapa ahead of their first round Championship play-off game against Batley Bulldogs tomorrow.

The Samoan internationals picked up the injuries in the win at Dewsbury - QLT (Laulu-Togagae) strained a knee injury and Taulapapa damaged his shoulder.

The pair are key to the Eagles hopes of reaching a second Grand Final with QLT setting a new club record with 32 tries this season. Coach Mark Aston said: “We’ll wait as long as we can before taking a decision.”

Winger Vinny Finigan and centre Duane Straugheir are on standby for tomorrow’s game at Don Valley Stadium, kick-off 3pm.

Half-back Simon Brown is in with a chance of recall and back rower Joe Hirst and hooker Pat Smith are in the squad.

A win will give the Eagles a trip to Halifax who beat Keighley Cougars 28-24 in their opening round game.

Eagles have done the double over the Bulldogs in the league but coach Aston warns it’s now one-chance rugby.

“We need to be good for 80 minutes,” he said. “This is knockout rugby and there’s no second chance. We’ve had two tough games against Batley this season and we know we’re in for another.”

Batley’s coach John Kear, who led the Eagles to their 1998 Challenge Cup win over Wigan, has put together one of the strongest forward packs in the competition.

If they can dominate it will open the way for half-back Ben Black and Gareth Moore to control the game.

“Batley are big and strong and have a couple of good half-backs who are playing particularly well,” said Aston.