Aston’s Eagles enjoy a rare rest

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A play-off place is safe and Sheffield Eagles players can enjoy the luxury of a rare weekend off.

They can relax, join the rest of rugby league in watching Saturday’s Challenge Cup final - but must be aware there are tough days ahead.

The final two league games - at Featherstone (Sunday August 31) and Rochdale (Sunday September 1) will decide if they earn a home game in the first round of the play-offs.

Results have started to come and, barring a major upset in last night’s final game against Rochdale, they should go into the break in fifth place.

The time off is a bonus with captain Mitch Stringer struggling with a knee problem that will need surgery in the winter. Some over-enthusiastic training drills left Peter Green and Michael Knowles nursing chest and rib injuries respectively and, although Eagles may have some promising young reserves, that trio’s experience could tip the balance in key games.

Coach Mark Aston has warned against underestimating the two-time champions: “Winning is what it’s all about now,” he said.

“We’ve got a weekend off then it’s back into it with two tough games.

“Everything is to play for when we get to the play-offs and maybe we can go all the way to another Grand Final - that’s certainly the aim.”

The try-scoring power in the backs can be devastating but a tendency to switch off the pressure and let the opposition back into games is still there.

The erratic nature of the Eagles’ play was on show in the 36-28 win against Whitehaven at Owlerton. Matt Garside, Kyle Briggs and Menzie Yere scored early ties with Patch Walker adding one before the break for a 24-16 lead.

For spells in the second half the Eagles went into their shell and it needed two tries from Quentin Laulu-Togagae to keep the points safe.

n Eagles fans will have split loyalties for the Wembley showpiece game with Castleford Tigers coached by former player Daryl Powell and Leed Rhinos’ chief executive Gary Hetherington.