Eagles coach play-off warning

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SHEFFIELD Eagles must overcome one of the game’s experts in knockout rugby if they are to take the first step towards a second successive Grand Final.

The Eagles made sure of a home game in the opening round of the play-offs when they will face Batley Bulldogs led by John Kear.

Kear is one of the great motivators in the game and coached the Eagles to a famous Challenge Cup victory in 1998 and repeated the feat with Hull FC in 2005.

“Batley are a good team and John Kear has got them firing well,” said coach Mark Aston who played in the Eagles Wembley win over Wigan Warriors.

“John’s done a good job at Batley – one thing you can be sure about any team John coaches is that they will be motivated to win.”

The Eagles earned the home game – at Don Valley Stadium, on Sunday, kick-off 3pm – by finishing in fourth place in the Championship for the second season running. The preparations for the Batley game have been boosted by club captain Jack Howieson, winger Vinny Finigan and fullback Quentin Laulu-Togagage, who set a new record of 32 tries this season, agreeing new contracts.

Eagles did the double over Batley in the league with the second-half comeback to win 32-24 at Mount Pleasant one of their best performances of the season.

Aston warns that the play-offs wipe the slate clean adding: “This is knockout rugby. Batley will be mindful that they haven’t beaten us yet but they won’t have many sleepless nights if they’ve watched our performance at Dewbury.”

Season tickets and junior wristbands are not accepted at Sunday’s game. All supporters have to pay on the gate: adults £15, concessions £10 and Juniors £5.