Sheffield Eagles Match Report by Joshua Chapman (@Chapalar)
The Cougars looked to bounce back from last week’s Challenge Cup humiliation at the hands of the Warrington Wolves as they played host to defending Kingstone Press Championship Champions, the Sheffield Eagles.
From the previous weeks squad against the Wolves, player-coach Paul March was forced into changes with Ben Sagar out injured as was Richie Barnett who had done ligament damage in the previous weeks Cup tie. Ryan Patchett dropped out of the previous weeks seventeen.
This saw Joe Chandler and Andy Shickell step up from the interchanges along with Scott Leatherbarrow who returned from the injury that forced him to miss the Warrington game. Jode Sheriffe dropped to the interchanges and was joined by Scott Law, fresh from injury, and Josh Lynham who was making his first appearance since day one away at the Batley Bulldogs.
For the Sheffield Eagles, changes were not as much following their Challenge Cup victory over the Dewsbury Rams the previous week. Jack Howieson’s decision to retire allowed a start for Eddie Battye with Matt Garside and Alex Szostak taking the places of Duane Straughier and Joe Hirst. Peter Green stepped onto the interchange bench to complete the seventeen.
The Cougars got the game underway as Scott Leatherbarrow kicked the ball along the floor and defended well as the Eagles completed the set and from the charge up field got close as some fantastic Eagles defence saw Brendon Rawlins forced out of play after a fantastic offload from Paul March.
A kick on the last from the resulting set nearly saw the visitors get possession on the tryline as a clever kick by Dominic Brambani saw the Eagles force Danny Lawton to the touchline and after an error in the tackle, the Eagles pushed the Cougars back with Dominic Brambani finding a gap in the Cougars line to squeeze over before converting his own try to give the visitors an early advantage.
The Eagles continued to pressurise Cougars and the hosts didn’t help the cause when Paul March was penalised for a steal in the tackle and some clever play first from Eddie Battye, and then Dominic Brambani sent Tom Armstrong over for the Eagles second try of the afternoon. Dominic Brambani then converted with ease to extend the Sheffield lead once again.
Sheffield soaked up some Cougars pressure from the restart but won possession back after Menzie Yere put in a massive hit on Paul White to win possession back before the Cougars were penalised for successive high tackles and after Eddie Battye spilled the ball on the line, Paul White broke free to send Cougars down the other end of the pitch.
Spills and thrills were proving to be the order of the day on the slippy surface at Cougar Park and Cougars were pushing hard to get onto the scoreboard with Sean Hesketh being halted twice on the line. James Feather then thought he’d got over for the hosts opening try but this proved not to be with Gary Hewer penalising the Cougars after Joe Chandler knocked on at the play the ball.
The Cougars then toughened up defensively with Brendon Rawlins and Andy Shickell getting into the Eagles faces forcing them to kick early in the set. Danny Lawton and Paul White then were both stopped in there threats to break the line before the Cougars did in fantastic fashion with some clever ball handling sending Daley Williams through the Eagles defence to get the Cougars onto the scoreboard.
Possession was then exchanged quickly by both sides before Paul White who had looked threatening all game finally had some luck in breaking the Eagles line before the visitors had to hold strong to keep out Scott Law before the hosts lost some valuable metres after a poor pass from Danny Jones before Paul March fought his way over from dummy half to squeeze over. Scott Leatherbarrow then missed the conversion.uit but the Cougars were still forced to defend frantically on their own line with Sean Hesketh and Danny Lawton halting the oncoming Menzie Yere before the Cougars then got possession back from a poor kick on the last from Brambani which allowed Keighley to get down field and win a goal line dropout after Misi Taulapapa was caught in goal.
Cougars then continued to push from the restart with exciting young hooker Joe Parkinson and Paul March both ran from dummy half to bring momentum well and truly to the Cougars before a dodgy pass from the Eagles from the kick fell kindly into the arms of the onrushing prop forward Scott Law who crossed with ease. Scott Leatherbarrow then missed his conversion yet again much to the dismay of the Cougars faithful.
Two knock ons in quick succession from Quentin Laulu-Togagae helped the Cougars massively after getting unlucky from a chip over top from Danny Jones to Gavin Duffy but the Eagles got the ball back and some clever passing saw them make metres before Pat Walker and Quentin Laulu-Togagae linked up to send Scott Turner over in the corner to restore the Eagles lead. Dominic Brambani then missed his conversion to send Eagles into half time with a four point lead.
Cougars surrendered possession in the first set after a poor pass from Paul March following a cracking break by Joe Parkinson and were nearly punished before the defence held out fantastically to keep Michael Knowles short off the line before possession was returned on the turnover following a knock on from James Davey.
Joe Parkinson continued his fantastic runs from dummy half and this was the catalyst of a fast Cougars attack which saw Danny Jones and Joe Chandler link up to break the Eagles line and were held out before the Eagles hit on the counter from a Danny Jones chip and found there way in again after a clever pass off the floor from James Davey sent Tom Armstrong over for his second try of the afternoon. Brambani then converted to give Eagles a ten point lead.
Keighley were beginning to aid the Eagles attack after giving away a soft penalty as Scott Leatherbarrow kicked out on the full from the restart. The Brambani penalty gave Eagles a new set of six just twenty metres from the Eagles line and some poor Cougars defending give Eagles some crucial metres and Daley Williams made sure they wouldn’t have to drop out from behind the posts.
Paul March then broke the Eagles line on two successive occasions with referee Gary Hewer proving unpopular after missing numerous high shots and offsides against the hosts before a Danny Jones kick won the Cougars a dropout after a fantastic chase and tackle by Andy Shickell who had just returned to the field of play.
Sheffield Eagles were keen to keep hold of their advantage and were holding the Cougars out with everything in their power and a fortunate bounce on the ball allowed Cougars to keep going and held out well stopping both Paul March and Joe Chandler on the line. The referee then strangely awarded the visitors a penalty which allowed them to retake the ball and push to extend their lead.
The Eagles kicked on the last and Matt Garside chased the ball in similar fashion to Shickell moments earlier to catch Gavin Duffy just as he was about to run at the Sheffield defence. Gary Hewer missed an obvious offside and interference as Sheffield got the ball back and proceeded to make enemies amongst the Cougar Park faithful after missing two forward passes and an offside from the kick as Sheffield won a scrum for a Gavin Duffy knock on.
Justice was then served in some sense as Michael Knowles wild pass found its way to the bloke in Row A rather than Misi Taulapapa on the wing which allowed Keighley to push before Sean Hesketh was penalised for trying to offload to Paul March in the tackle as he put the balls into the hands of Andrew Henderson but some manic defending by the Keighley line won the hosts a scrum.
Some more contentious offside decision not given kept proving to be a thorn in the Cougars sides but play was stopped after James Feather was knocked unconscious from a shot by Andrew Henderson. Buster was cleared to play on by the Doctor and Cougars won another set off six after trapping the Eagles in goal.
With the rain getting heavier and the wind getting stronger the kicking game proved to be key and Sheffield were doing it better than the Cougars with Paul White being trapped in goal from a clever kick on the fifth from playmaker Dominic Brambani.
Danny Lawton then caught the ball in goal and took the decision to tap and run quickly from the twenty and a charge forward by Andy Shickell paved the way for Buster to break and make forty metres before Olly Purglove fought his way over. Danny Jones then converted to bring the sides within four points of each other.
The Eagles then got the after a short kick off before the rain and wind played a factor again as the Eagles knocked on which caused a bit of fisticuffs which left the Cougars on a team warning for the remaining ten minutes of the game. Cougars pushed in attack and held strong in defence in the pouring rain to win sets of sixes on a more frequent basis.
Cougars kicked into touch which forced the Eagles to try and push from their own twenty metre line and Keighley held out fantastically to win yet another set of six from which Paul March’s side made metres at a fantastic rate which then saw Brendon Rawlins win a penalty just twenty metres from the line after a high shot from Michael Knowles.
From the penalty, Paul March and Olly Pursglove both pushed forward and were stopped on the line and a frantic offload fell into the hands of Misi Taulapapa who ran eighty metres and leaving Gavin Duffy in his wake to go underneath the sticks to end the game and make sure the visitors took the three points and ended there Cougar Park hoodoo in the process.
From the kick off, Eagles were kept in their own half and kicked into the goalmouth area which allowed Paul White to run forward and despite the best efforts of Brendon Rawlins and Joe Chandler, Keighley couldn’t get close and the man known as ‘QLT’ collected with ease and after another great defensive set from the Cougars, the game came to an end after a tackle on Sean Hesketh.
Cougars: White, Duffy, Williams, Chandler, Lawton, Jones, Leatherbarrow, Shickell, Feather, Hesketh, Pursglove, Rawlins, March. Interchanges: Law, Jode Sheriffe, Lynham, Parkinson.
Eagles: Laulu-Togagae, Turner, Yere, Armstrong, Taulapapa, Walker, Brambani, Battye, Henderson, Stringer, Garside, Szostak, Knowles. Interchanges: Green, Davey, Roche, Esposito.