Sheffield Tigers have faced a true test of character over the last few weeks and come through with flying colours.
Injuries to Jon Feely, Richard Joel, Andy Barnes, Mark Chivers and Matt Gidlow has shredded the first team squad but young replacements such as Jamie Broadley, Sam Cook, Peter Swatkins and Ali Thomson have stepped up the mark in impressive style.
Gidlow could be in contention for the first ever league clash against Yorkshire rivals Otley on Saturday while Chivers returned to training this week.
Unfortunately the news is not so good on the ‘big three.’ Feely is set to be sidelined for a further three weeks and Joel and Barnes could face operations.
There’s no doubt it’s been a tough learning curve but Tigers have got to grips with the strength of National 2 North and they’re sure to remain competitive for the rest of the season.
It was there for all to see in the commanding 48-18 victory over bottom club Hull Ionians which followed on from their fine win at Stockport seven days earlier.
Key to it once again was the cutting edge again shown by the backs who produced some outstanding tries, the first of which came after 13 minutes when Broadley burst through to set up right wing Alex Graham. Jonny West added the conversion.
Seven minutes later centre Tom Outram’s pace enabled him to go outside his opposition marker for a second converted try. The visitors plundered a penalty and then full back Swatkins was forced off with an injury and replaced by Graham with Gareth Morley moving onto the wing.
Ionians reduced the gap by a further three points and continued to keep the pressure on but it was Tigers who ended the half the happier after a stunning try. From a line out steal on the half way line the ball was taken forward at pace and deft handling by Nick Pearson, Callum Mackenzie and hooker Ali Thomson got Tigers to the visitors try line. Recycling brought the ball left and an inside pass by Outram enabled Broadley to race in and score. West again converted for a 21-6 half-time lead.
The home side substituted Charlie Cone for Anthony Ross at prop and debutant back rower Will Smyth for Steve Pearson but it was the visitors who struck first with an unconverted try, just five minutes into the second half.
Tigers responded in style with two unconverted tries in four minutes. Second row Sam Cook was credited with the first and Callum Mackenzie powered through for the second.
West then bagged a fine individual try in the 65 minute and added his own conversion before Ioanians responded with a converted try with 12 minutes left.
A dummy and neat offload by West enabled Broadley to go over once more and there was still time for two more breaks by the rampaging Buchanan, the second of which resulted in him going over on the stroke of full time.
Tigers: Bunting, Thomson (Whitworth), Ross(Cone), Cook, Pearson S (Smyth), Mackenzie, Pearson N, Hayter, Drage, West, Broadley, Buchanan, Outram (Clark), Graham, Swatkins (Morley).
Man of the match: Alex Drage – excellent service and fearless tackling.