Eagles up for derby battle with in-form Dons

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Derby games have a special passion but there’s more than just bragging rights at stake when Sheffield Eagles face Doncaster.

The Dons under new player-coach Paul Cooke have been setting the pace in the Championship but Eagles are coming up on the rails.

Eagles are hitting form with a hard-earned win at Workington Town lifting them to fifth in the table.

That’s put them two points behind Doncaster who are in third after beating Crusaders.

“It’s an important game for both of us, we both need the points to keep up near the top. It’s going to be a cracking game and it’s great for rugby league in South Yorkshire,” said coach Mark Aston.

“Doncaster are going well and have surprised a few people this season – they beat Featherstone and Batley, not easy games.

“They are coming to Owlerton which is our home and where we’re settling in. They will be used to playing on a wider pitch at the Keepmoat and are coming into our back garden and we are going to challenge them, ask the questions that hopefully they won’t have answers to.”

Aston has been impressed by the way former Hull star Paul Cooke has started as player-coach.

“I would recommend player-coach to anyone. It’s a tough job – I know I’ve done it. Paul has really got the team playing as a unit,” he said.

“Paul has played at the highest level and he still has the mind set and the football brain to guide the team around the field and we have plans to counter him.”

Eagles extended their winning run to five games with a 24-14 victory at Workington Town but it came at a price.

Record try scorer Menzie Yere and forward Michael Knowles both failed to finish the game after picking up knee injuries that could rule them out against Doncaster and the Challenge Cup game at Castleford Tigers.

“You hope you don’t pick up injuries but it’s part of the game. We could have picked up a couple that will keep people out for a few weeks,” said Aston.

Eagles got off to a great start at Derwent Park with a try and goal from scrum-half Dominic Brambani after only two minutes.

Strong defence protected the lead with the first of two tries from Matt Garside giving them a 12-6 lead at half-time.

It stayed that way until the final 20 minutes with Duane Straugheir keeping the Eagles ahead with a try either side of two Town scores. Garside got his eighth try of the season in the final minute with Brambani finishing with four goals.

Aston said: “We did a lot of defending, some of the decisions against us left a lot to be desired but we stood up and showed a good attitude towards defending our line, which is what I have been looking for.”

Eagles fifth round Tetley’s Challenge Cup game at Castleford Tigers will be played on Sunday 27 April, kick-off 3.30pm.