Eagles must get monkey off their back and break a play-off duck

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Sheffield Eagles must shake off their habit of falling at the final hurdle as they go into the Championship play-offs.

A season of missed opportunities in Cup and league has left them with only one chance of honours by repeating last year’s Grand Final triumph.

Coach Mark Aston saw the league leader shield slip from their grasp with a defeat at Featherstone Rovers.

It follows the heartache of the Northern Rail Cup final loss to Leigh Centurions

“In two big games we haven’t been clinical and not finished it off,” he said.

“The lads have to do it and be accountable and responsible for their actions.”

A second place finish in the league has ensured home advantage in the play-offs starting with Halifax at Don Valley tomorrow, kick-off 7.30pm.

A win would earn a place in the semi-finals and week off. Defeat means facing a last chance game the following week.

Halifax are one of four sides to have beaten the Eagles in the Championship this season.

They finished in third place, five points behind the Eagles, but ended the season with three wins.

“Halifax will come with a bit of confidence but we’ve got home advantage and have to make it count,” said Aston.

“We have to go out against Halifax with the right attitude.

“We haven’t become a poor team, we’re just a bit deflated and hopefully the last couple of games will galvanise the lads and draw them together.”

Hopes of finishing top of the Championship were crushed by a try in the final minute of the 40-24 defeat at Featherstone in midweek, which denied the Eagles a losing bonus point.

That made the final league game at Doncaster an anti-climax, with the Eagles lacking momentum as they went down 34-20.

A positive was centre Menzie Yere taking his try total for the season to 42, to equal the individual scoring record of 114 set by Daryl Powell between 1984-95.

Aston added: “We’ve had a setback but we have to have the character to show that we want to make the Grand Final again. I’ll be honest and straight down the line with the lads and I’ll pick a team that is mentally, physically ready to play Halifax.”

A major worry is stand-off Patch Walker, who came off early in the Featherstone game with an ankle ligament injury.

The team lacks experienced cover at half-back with Aston’s teenage son Cory starting for the first time at Doncaster.