SHEFFIELD Eagles had their own ‘Andy Murray moment’ when they played Halifax last Friday night.
The Eagles players did just about everything right for the first half and Fax were lucky to be only 18-4 down at half-time in the Northern Rail Cup semi. Time, it seemed, to start thinking of a day-trip to Blackpool with a Cup Final thrown in.
It was so one-sided that not a single Halifax player’s name was mentioned when with the Radio Leeds (Radio Sheffield don’t do rugby league) and the Halifax paper’s reporters I discussed possible contenders for the man of the match during the break. 40 minutes later we were nominating Fax’s Anthony Thackeray for the award.
In his playing days the Halifax coach, Karl Harrison, was a pretty fearsome forward – you don’t get the nickname ‘Rhino’ for nothing.
Maybe it was something he said at half-time or a few of the Fax players didn’t fancy the retribution that would follow if they continued to run around like headless chickens.
It worked, Fax went for it and staged a remarkable comeback. Maybe there was a little help from the match officials, including a penalty in front of the posts which was to prove the margin in a 24-22 result – but this was a game the Eagles lost as much as Fax won. Eagles fans must have felt like they had been caught without a brolly in the storms that had swept the city earlier in the day.
No way could you complain about the sporting drama – just the result. Scientists say they have proved that the Higgs boson (God) particle exists but that’s nothing to trying to fathom what can happen in sport.
The Eagles seemed to have found all the answers to ensuring cup glory then disappeared down a black hole.
Don Valley felt even more empty than usual. There was nothing more to do but tell yourself that Bloomfield Road stadium is no Wembley and Blackpool isn’t the best place to be during a rainy British summer.
A little over-indulgence sampling the delights of the Rising Sun’s Beer Festival in Nether Green the following night also helped go some way to banish the memories.
It’s no fun being first of the losers but disappointments (and hangovers) pass. Time to dust off a great sporting cliché – the Eagles can now concentrate on the league.
Six games to go (including a trip to Halifax next month) with plenty of scope for change in the six that will contest the play-offs.
That starts tomorrow night against Batley Bulldogs at Mount Pleasant (not the most accurate description of a sporting venue).
Batley is famous for its sloping pitch. If the Eagles can cope with the geography, and deny the Bulldogs a losing bonus point they will climb into second place in the Championship.
The Eagles might only stay in second until the weekend games but they will have put a mountain of disappointment behind them.