Sheffield Eagles v Keighley Cougars Preview by Dan Fowler.
A Kingstone Press Championship contest of vital proportions for both teams at Owlerton this Sunday. Sheffield have faltered at home too much for anyone’s liking, and they’ll be hoping the win against Workington two weeks ago will spur them on for better performances on home turf.
Sheffield have won their last two matches, including the extravagant win against Workington at home. A 37-30 win for the Eagles typified the recent home performances of Aston’s men, some spurts of good but mostly spurts of bad. With the exception of Leigh, Sheffield have been winning at halftime in every single home match this season, but haven’t been able to close out the game due to sheer lack of concentration and taking their foot off the gas, has this been shaken out of the side after their most recent victory?
The South Yorkshire side strung their second win in as many weeks together on Sunday with a win at Dewsbury. A defensively resolute performance as well as three tries in six second half minutes were enough for the steel city side to take the spoils and deny the Rams a bonus point. A brace from Misi Taulapapa was complemented with singles from, former Dewsbury men, Patch Walker and Scott Turner, as well as PNG powerhouse Menzie Yere, resulting in a satisfying win for the Eagles. Denying Dewsbury the bonus point meant that Sheffield leapfrogged Dewsbury in the table, the Eagles now find themselves in 5th, but three points separate them from the Cougars, in 9th.
A reaction from Paul March’s Keighley men will be in order after their agonising last minute loss to Batley Bulldogs at the weekend. A Miles Greenwood try was enough for the Heavy Woollen outfit to edge the game 28-24, the result meant Keighley dropped down to 9th, a place where they’re safe from relegation but don’t qualify for a playoff place.
Four points separate the West Yorkshire side from the last relegation spot, occupied by North Wales Crusaders. A win on Sunday though, for the Cougars, could elevate them up to 5th if results go their way, but they’ll need to hammer Sheffield by 40+ points to go above the Champions in 5th. Keighley have lost both league games since their Challenge Cup tie with Widnes, where March was criticised for fielding a weakened team. The losses have came against Whitehaven away and Batley at home, but the key factor being that they gained bonus points from both games and kept their point tally ticking over.
Players to look out for in the Keighley side include winger Richie Barnett who scored a brace in the Batley defeat, similar to stand off Danny Jones who also scored a brace, and is a very tricky kicker to contain. Paul Handforth has been in the Rugby League scene for a good while and his signing in the off season from Halifax has been good business by March, a steady kicking game is exactly what is needed in this league, and that’s what scrum half Handforth brings to the table.
A big encounter on the horizon for both teams. Sheffield, looking for their third straight league win, will be hoping to gain further pace in their assault of the teams above. Keighley will be hoping for a solid three points and end their three loss streak in the league, in conjunction with gaining some much needed breathing space from the relegation zone