Sheffield Eagles ended the 2018 campaign with a fifth straight defeat as visitors Rochdale secured their Championship status with a 32-22 victory.
In a second-half which ebbed one way then another, it was the Hornets who eventually held their nerve to secure the vital victory they needed to leapfrog Swinton in the Championship table.
With several players making their final appearance for the Eagles, they couldn’t sign off with a victory despite levelling the scores at one stage, as Rochdale found the extra gear needed for a crucial win.
It looked as though the home side would rise to the occasion in the early stages, and they opened the scoring when Simon Brown sent the grubber kick through and youngster Blake Broadbent grounded, with Oscar Thomas adding the extras.
Rochdale hit-back straight away when Danny Yates’ kick was eventually taken by Toby Adamson who powered over to score, but Tyler Whittaker missed the conversion.
After the 20 minute mark the visitors took control and when Menzie Yere spilled a pass, Dean Cross ran 90 metres to score in the corner for an unconverted score.
The Hornets further extended their advantage when Lee Mitchell barged his way through three tacklers to scramble over, and this time Whittaker converted.
Whittaker’s penalty gave Rochdale a deserved 10 point lead going into the sheds, but the home side found a new lease of life after the break.
After winning a penalty 20 metres out they made it count when a jinking run from Greg Burns saw the youngster dive over, and Thomas judged the wind to nail the extras.
The good work was immediately undone though when the hosts failed to gather the restart, giving the Hornets prime position leading to Jack Fox going over for a converted score.
The try-exchange continued as Cory Aston spun out of the tackle to touch down for a converted try, and inside the final quarter Jake Spedding scored in the corner from Fozard’s pass for a level game, but Thomas missed a difficult kick.
Back came the Hornets and Joe Taira barged over for an unconverted try after Spedding couldn’t claim Whittaker’s high bomb.
In a tense last 10 minutes the Hornets secured victory through Whittaker’s last minute converted try to seal survival.
Eagles: Thomas; Macani, Yere, Toole, Spedding; Brown, Aston; Offerdahl, Fozard, Broadbent; Weldon, Pick; P. Burns. Interchange: G. Burns, James, Davies, Magrin.
Scorers: Tries: Broadbent (3), G. Burns (45), Aston (51), Spedding (63) Goals: Thomas 3/3
Rochdale: Lepori; Cross, T. Adamson, Talatoka, Fox; Whittaker, Yates; Hatton, Moores, Moran; Mitchell, L. Adamson; Taira. Interchange: Gregory, Ryan, Millington, Brickhill.
Scorers: Tries: T. Adamson (6), Cross (21), Mitchell (24), Fox (47), Taira (65), Whittaker (79) Goals: 4/6
Referee: Tom Grant