Sheffield Eagles: ‘Quality’ response

Eagles old boy: Alex Rowe in action for Batley Bulldogs last weekend
Eagles old boy: Alex Rowe in action for Batley Bulldogs last weekend
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THE scene is set for Sheffield Eagles to show their true champions’ quality in the opening home game of the season tonight.

After losing at Halifax coach Mark Aston doesn’t want to be left playing catch up on his rivals so early in the defence of the Championship title.

“We’re at home, the first time since the Grand Final we’ve been back and we want to make a good start in front of our fans,” he said.

“There was a lot that was good last week but we need to be that bit better and come away with the three points.”

Aston has pledged that his squad will “roll their sleeves up” for a tough battle at Don Valley Stadium, kick-off 7.30pm. Batley, led by former Eagles boss John Kear, hammered Keighley 42-10 in their opening round game.

“Batley started well and obviously we were a bit rusty last week and we haven’t had much more time on the grass because of the weather,” said Aston.

“We’re a quality team and the players will get better but we need to play on firmer pitches. We want to get back to the quality we delivered at the end of last season as soon as we can.”

Aston could give a debut to centre Matt Garside, signed from York and winger Scott Turner has an outside chance of being fit following a calf strain.

But with prop forward Liam Higgins showing no reaction to being knocked out early in the 18-10 defeat at Halifax, the 17 that went out at the Shay may get another chance.

Batley’s pack includes former Eagle’ prop Alex Rowe and Alex Walmsley, on a dual reg following his move to St Helens at the end of last season. Playmaker Ben Black has started well and fullback Miles Greenwood scored a hat-trick of tries against Keighley.

Aston said: “Alex Rowe will have a point to prove after we let him go. Batley have speed, strength and vision. It’s a tough game and the conditions won’t help our style.”

The Eagles defence is well organised but they need the understanding between new signing Patch Walker, his half-back partner Dominic Brambani and hooker Andrew Henderson to develop if they are to have an offensive impact.