A SPELL of two games that will have a big impact on Sheffield Eagles season kicks off with the visit of Halifax to Bramall Lane tonight (7.30pm).
That’s followed by a trip to last season’s Grand Final winners Featherstone Rovers on Easter Saturday.
In a competition where the teams finishing first and second in the league last season only lost one and drew one – second-placed Leigh had three points docked for salary cap offences – there’s little margin for error.
“There’s no pressure – we don’t talk about losing, only about winning and improving,” said Eagles coach Mark Aston.
That hasn’t stopped Aston planning his strategy carefully with six first team regulars rested for last week’s third round Challenge Cup game against amateurs Oulton Raiders. They will all be back for tonight’s game where top spot in the league is up for grabs.
“Some of the lads have had 10 days rest and they will be fresh for the Halifax game which is important,” added Aston. “Those who are going to back up (play both games) were used sparingly against Oulton which is good for us as well.”
The Eagles played in bursts as they scored 11 tries in beating the South Leeds amateurs 56-8 in a game played at Wakefield Wildcats stadium.
Samoan international Quentin Laulu-Togagae scored four first half tries while Dane McDonald celebrated his return after shoulder surgery with a double either side of the break.
Tries from Nev Morrison, Ryan Hepworth, Sam Scott, Pat Smith and Duane Straugheir with four goals for Michael Knowles and three from an off-key Simon Brown rounded up the scoring.
A bonus for Aston was the return from injury of several players with Knowles and Rowe making a case for a place in the 17 against Halifax.
Halifax, under new coach Karl Harrison also rested players at the weekend as they set a new club record with a 94-4 win over Hull amateurs Myton.
The Challenge Cup fourth round draw gave the Eagles a trip to Championship rivals York Knights with the game played on the weekend of April 14-15.
Tonight’s game at the Lane is live on satellite channel Premier Sports.
The Eagles are using the game to build links with the city’s universities to try and encourage more student fans.
Pre-match entertainment will see a cheerleaders troops from the two universities compete in a dance-off.
At half-time there is a seven-a-side rugby competition for the Varsity Cup with teams from the students men’s (both codes) and women’s rugby clubs. The Eagles are offering a £5 student ticket for the game.
Before the game Darnall singer Matthew Hewitt, winner of Sky’s Don’t Stop Me Now, will entertain the crowd.