Eagles hold on to play-off hopes

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EVENTS off the field have made more of an impact on Sheffield Eagles’ hopes of making a play-off place than the team’s performance.

Two defeats in two away games could have seen the Eagles drop out of the top six but rivals Barrow Raiders made sure of a reprieve.

The Cumbrians were docked six points for salary cap breaches in 2010 and then could manage only a losing bonus point at Dewsbury Rams.

When all the sums were done it leaves the Eagles in fifth place on points difference over resurgent Halifax and the Raiders trailing by six points and out of the play-off places. It means a win at Hunslet Hawks on Sunday and at least a point at Barrow the following weekend and the Eagles are in the play-offs, no matter what Barrow or Halifax do in their final games.

Simple really – but not if the Eagles keep playing in the lethargic manner that characterised their 34-6 defeat at Featherstone where further embarrassment was only saved by the Raiders missing seven out of eight possible conversions.

Hunslet shouldn’t provide as tough a test as the Championship leaders did a week ago. The South Leeds club are bumbling along just off the bottom of the league and were hammered 70-12 by the Eagles at Bramall Lane in May.

The performance at Featherstone was one of the low points of the season and could only be partially excused by the absence of key players.

Prop Mitch Stringer found himself in at loose-forward for the injured Joe Hirst and set up the Eagles only try for full back Misi Taulapapa early in the game but soon it was one-way traffic.

“We matched Fev for the first 20 minutes because we completed our sets with eight out of the first 10, we were doing the right things at the right time and that’s what Tubby (Mark Aston) wanted us to do,” said Stringer.

Hirst and stand-off Quentin Laulu-Togagae, both sidelined with hamstring strains, are expected to be fit for the trip to South Leeds Stadium, on Sunday, kick-off 3pm.

That should give the team a better balance. Stringer added: “That’s the good thing about rugby league there is always next week and we’ve got five games now before the play-offs.

Meanwhile John Kear, who coached the Eagles to their 1998 Challenge Cup win over Wigan has been told that his contract at Wakefield Wildcats will not be renewed at the end of the season.