Sheffield Eagles will be focusing on short term gains when they kick-off what could be their last season at Don Valley Stadium.
Eagles opened the defence of their Championship title with a 18-10 defeat at Halifax in a dour contest on a heavy, wet pitch that made a mockery of what is officially a ‘summer’ sport.
Weather permitting, they hope to open their account with a win over Batley Bulldogs in their first home game of the season at closure-threatened Don Valley tomorrow night (kick-off 7.30pm).
Batley, under former Eagles boss John Kear, provide a test after crushing Keightley 42-10 in their first round game.
“It’s tough, Halifax and then Batley but that’s the way the Championship will be this season,” said coach Mark Aston.
“We were second best at Halifax, and now we have to roll our sleeves up and fine tune a few things.”
The past week has been spent in trying to sharpen up the Eagles play after a performance where they defended well but were error prone and made little impact with ball in hand.
The Eagles opened the scoring after only four minutes with second rower Michael Knowles touching a chip kick from stand-off Patch Walker, one of three players making their debuts.
Winger Misi Taulapapa added a second try converted by Walker but Fax edged ahead and had a 16-10 lead at half-time.
After the restart tight defending kept Halifax to only a penalty goal eight minutes from time.
Aston admitted the team looked ‘ring rusty’ but refused to offer that as an excuse.
“I’m a little bit disappointed by the result,” he said.
“We set off really well and we looked like we were getting back into it then we got challenged a bit.
“The penalty count went against us, particularly in the first half, and we didn’t help ourselves there and put ourselves under pressure.”
Prop Liam Higgins is likely to miss the Batley game after being knocked in the first half at Halifax. That could see a debut for new signing Matt Garside, who can play second row or centre.