A bittersweet day as homeless Eagles win another Grand Final

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Sheffield Eagles won the Championship title and were made homeless all in the space of a few hours.

As the gates were closing on Don Valley Stadium for the last time skipper Mitch Stringer was lifting the Grand Final trophy.

Coach Mark Aston summed up a day of mixed emotions after the 19-12 win over Leigh Centurions saying: “We need a trophy cabinet to put the trophy in!”

Eagles retained their title and became the first team to win back-to-back to Grand Finals but there remains the worry of where the club will play next season.

The Eagles finally got their hands on the silverware that has eluded them in the Northern Rail Final and by finishing second in the league.

Those disappointments aside it has been a remarkable season – although their efforts were ignored in the Championship awards with only Stringer voted Player of the Year.

Aston missed out on the coach award and the club prize went to Halifax who finished below Eagles in the league and failed to reach a final.

“Credit to the guys, we have played 38 games – Super League clubs play 35,” said Aston. “It baffles me why Sheffield Eagles didn’t get club of the year and that was a bit of a motivation for the guys.”

He added: “We need somewhere we can call home for the first team to play at – it’s sad that Don Valley has closed on the day we made history but another chapter will open.”

Hopes are firmly pinned on a move to Owlerton Stadium but that will need help from the city council.

The greyhound stadium – where the Eagles began in 1984 – must be brought back to the standards needed for Championship rugby league. Time is short with work on reseeding and improving the pitch needing to start in the coming weeks.

The spirit to survive was clear on the field in the Grand Final as the Eagles trailed 12-0 after a first half when they were starved of possession.

But Batley had been restricted to a single try and after some ‘hard words’ from Aston at half-time the Eagles came into the game. The turning point was a 40-20 kick by man-of-the-match Dominic Brambani which set up the first of two tries from winger Scott Turner either side of Menzie Yere’s 46th of season.

Quentin Laulu-Togagae ghosted in for the winning score with Brambani adding the conversion and Patch Walker an ‘insurance’ drop goal.

“We weren’t playing well and Tubby (Aston) let us know that at half-time,” said Stringer. “We went back to a simple game and showed what we can do. Now we want to make it three titles.”

Eagles trio Stringer, Andrew Henderson and Alex Szostak have been named in the Scotland squad for the Rugby League World Cup later this month.