Sheffield Eagles Match Report by Joshua Chapman (@Chapalar)
After the previous weeks narrow defeat at the hands of the Dewsbury Rams, the Cougars found themselves travelling to the Don Valley for a Friday night fixture against the Sheffield Eagles who lost in the Northern Rail Final the week previous.
The Cougars only made one change which was enforced following the defeat to Dewsbury. Richie Barnett, who had not featured since breaking his ankle in the April Challenge Cup defeat against Warrington, returned to the side in the place of James Haley, who sustained a season ending shoulder injury against the Rams.
The opening fifteen minutes of the game was a tight affair with both sides still showing signs of tiredness from their games in the sweltering heat the week previous. The Cougars were the first to get near the try line as Tom Armstrong halted Craig Moss just short off the line before down the other end of the pitch they held Matt Garside up over the line.
But then, the Eagles broke the deadlock when from a defensive line break, Dominic Brambani sent an absolutely awesome offload over the Cougars defence to Menzie Yere, who found his way over the try line from twenty metres out after the Cougars left the Papua New Guinea international the freedom of Sheffield before Brambani put the conversion horribly wide off the posts.
The Eagles then began to turn on the style as they found themselves over for their second try off the afternoon but under controversial circumstances. Quentin Laulu-Togagae broke down the wing and despite having a foot knocked into touch by Daley Williams in front of the linesman, but preceded before offloading to Tom Armstrong who raced over the line to extend the hosts lead with Brambani adding the extras.
From the restart, things got worse for the Cougars, as Scott Turner broke the line before linking up with the man known as QLT before the Kolpak full back offloaded to Tom Armstrong to send the centre over for his second try off the evening. Dominic Brambani then added the extras to leave the Cougars sixteen behind in similar fashion to the previous two weeks.
Despite getting close with Elliott Cosgrove and Paul March, the Cougars fell further behind with loose forward Joe Hirst collecting the ball and fighting his way through the Cougars defence to touch down for the Eagles before once again, Dominic Brambani added the extras with comfortable ease to extend the home sides advantage.
The Eagles began to threaten to run away with the game as in the closing stages off the half both Scott Turner and Michael Knowles were held short before following a scrum against Paul March, the Eagles made their way up the field and Michael Knowles sent an offload out to Menzie Yere with the big centre somehow knocking on when it seemed easier to score to bring the first half to a close.
The Eagles began the second half how they had started the first with Tom Armstrong held up over the line by the Cougars defence and after giving the Eagles a number of penalties which were not needed with the likes of Menzie Yere being held short before the big centre had his effort in the corner ruled out as it was judged QLT had knocked on in the build up.
The Cougars then had a real chance to cross the line and score for the first team and after some fantastic build up led by Sean Hesketh and Craig Moss, the ball found its way into the hands of Scott Leatherbarrow but the scrum half knocked on.
The Cougars were out on their feet and showed this more than ever when Pat Walker sent a kick over the top and following a Ben Sagar attempt to pick the ball out off the air came off worse when the ball fell into the hands off Misi Taulapapa and the big winger dived over the line to but even a bonus point out off the question after a successful Brambani conversion.
The Eagles then had another two chances to extend their lead but both came up short after Tom Armstrong knocked on and then Scott Turner offloaded into the hands off Craig Moss. The Cougars then found themselves in a rare attacking position and finally made the Eagles pay when after Olly Pursglove was held up short off the line, Danny Jones sent a grubber kick in from which Daley Williams collected and scored but Danny’s conversion bounced back off the upright.
With Daley Williams now down in back play with a bloodied nose which had to be put back into place following the game, the Cougars pushed up the field to attempt to get back within reach off the bonus point. And, they were over again when Elliott Cosgrove collected a James Feather pass before fighting his way through the Eagles defence to score. Danny Jones conversion then hit the upright again but fell the right way fortunately this time around.
A quiet few minutes followed before the Eagles got the final score off the game. The Eagles kicked the Cougars apart once again when Dominic Brambani’s attempt at a drop goal bounced back off the upright but fell into the hands of QLT who dodged and weaved pass Craig Moss and Elliott Cosgrove to get over the tryline. Dom Brambani added the extras to bring the game to a close even with Paul March’s attempt to score on the hooter.
Yorkshire Times Man of the Match – Sean Hesketh – The Irish prop forward but in arguably his best performance in a Cougars shirt. Defensive wise he kept the Eagles at bay with on one or two occasions the likes of Menzie Yere and QLT switching sides just to avoid Paddy’s tough tackling. His big bursting runs forward in attack paved the way for Elliott Cosgrove’s try and truly deserves the MOTM accolade.
Cougars: Moss, Barnett, Cosgrove, Williams, White, Jones, Leatherbarrow, Shickell, Feather, Hesketh, Pursglove, Chandler, Rawlins. Interchanges: March, Law, Sagar, Bailey.
Eagles: Laulu-Togagae, Turner, Yere, Armstrong, Taulapapa, Walker, Brambani, Higgins, Henderson, Stringer, Garside, Straugheir, Hirst. Interchanges: Knowles, Green, Davey, Szostak.