BEING drawn against a student team in the Carnegie Challenge Cup looked like an easy game for Sheffield Eagles, now it’s become a university challenge.
Games like the third round meeting with Leeds Met University can be a chance to give a run-out to squad players – that won’t happen on at the weekend.
A series of unconvincing performances has produced only one win in four games for the Eagles and seen the team struggle as an attacking force.
For their supporters the game at Don Valley Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm) is sure to raise the spectre of the 16-14 defeat by amateurs Thornhill Trojans at the same stage in the 2000 competition.
Coach Mark Aston is determined to avoid a repeat of that shock result. He said: “We’re not playing well enough to start messing about with the team. I will make sure we put our best team out and make sure we’re in the bag for the fourth round.”
Deciding on the best 17 is likely to cause Aston a few headaches. Last weekend’s 16-12 defeat by Hunslet Hawks, that ended Eagles hopes of making the knockout stages of the Northern Rail Cup, highlighted the problems.
During training this week Aston and his coaching team have been emphasising the need to keep to the game plan and stay composed.
“We’re not playing as a team,” said Aston. “There was no structure to our play and we looked like a ship without a rudder. Too often we get frantic and that’s when you don’t make the right decisions.
“The commitment was there against Hunslet but it wasn’t channelled in the right direction.”
Leeds Met are the strongest side in the university game and won the Super 8 title last week. Coached by former Leeds’ forward Paul Fletcher the squad includes a number of players who have links with professional clubs.
Eagles’ director Andy Tyers will have divided loyalties with his son Ben in the students’ squad to face the Eagles.
Aston’s options – certainly in the backs – are severely limited. He will rely on the power and experience in the forwards to create a platform for a win over the Leeds students.
Against Hunslet the pack kept the game tight with hooker Andrew Henderson, prop Liam Higgins and loose-forward Joe Hurst strong and Eddie Battye adding an urgency and combative edge.
Simon Brown’s return at half-back gave the team a kicking game with his boot setting up the Eagles tries from Menzie Yere and Corey Hanson.
The Eagles has reminded season ticket holders that entry to the third round game is covered by their ticket.