IF ever Sheffield Eagles need a big performance it’s against Hunslet Hawks at the weekend.
There’s a lot at stake in what will be a test of character after a 68-6 mauling at Leigh Centurions.
The winner of Sunday’s clash can still qualify for a place in the quarter-finals of the Northern Rail Cup if Batley Bulldogs or Workington Town lose their final group stage games.
“We’ve got a chance and we have to take it but we’ll have to improve a lot on what happened at Leigh,” said coach Mark Aston. Injuries and overseas players still waiting for UK entry visas reduced Aston to choosing from 18 fit players for the visit to Leigh.
Even that couldn’t hide what was a dismal performance with the Eagles barely touching the ball – and then often dropping it – during much of the game.
Leigh ran riot with 12 tries and the only Eagles’ points came three minutes from time with Jamie Cottle’s first try for the club converted by Tim Bergin.
“I’m disappointed but it hasn’t just happened, for a bit the lads haven’t been hitting the straps,” said Aston. “I’m disappointed because defensively we were all over the place. We have to deliver the right things on the pitch.”
At Leigh Aston was again forced to field a team packed with forwards but there should be a better balance for Hunslet’s visit to Don Valley Stadium, on Sunday, kick-off 3pm.
Half-backs Kyle Wood (dead leg) and Simon Brown (groin strain) should be back from injury to play their first game together for the Eagles.
Second rower Alex Szostak has recovered from a virus that saw him miss two games. The major problem remains at centre. Teenager Corey Hanson had a tough time at Leigh and Menzie Yere was a shadow of the force he can be. Hunslet helped set up the possible winner-take all clash by beating Workington 30-0. It was their first win in the competition but their determination has also earned them two bonus points from narrow defeats. The Hawks won automatic promotion from National One last season and player-coach Paul March has added a number of experienced players including winger Richie Barnett from the Eagles.