BIG decisions are ahead for Sheffield Eagles’ coach Mark Aston as he ponders the line-up for a crucial game at Leigh Centurions.
Aston has to find the right balance of power and flair in the 17 for a game that could decide the Eagles’ fate in the group stages of the Northern Rail Cup.
He went for the power option playing to the squad’s strength with a team packed with forwards – including six props – for last weekend’s clash with Whitehaven.
It wasn’t a total success needing a try in the final 30 seconds from prop Mitch Stringer – who had started at second row – and a touchline conversion from Tim Bergin to snatch a 16-16 draw.
That team make-up won’t be repeated at Leigh, on Sunday (kick-off 3pm), but Aston’s options in the backs are severely limited.
Aston’s been looking for a possible signing this week as the wait for Samoan internationals Misi Taulapapa and Quentin Laulu-Togagae to get their UK entry visas goes on.
“We needed the forwards against a big Whitehaven team but there will be changes for the Leigh game,” said Aston. “We have to find the right balance in the team. It might be different, but we are pretty low down in numbers in the back line.”
The Eagles led 10-8 at half-time, with tries from Bergin and prop Ryan Hepworth, but became frustrated as Whitehaven took the lead and closed down the options in the second half.
A positive was the way dual-registration signing from Huddersfield, Kyle Wood, slotted in at scrum-half and the form of hooker Andrew Henderson.
After two group games the Eagles are fourth in Pool 2 but defeat at Leigh could see them drop out of the qualifying places for the knockout stage.
Aston said: “We have to keep the structures we talk about, be patient – you can’t win a game in the first minute. Sometimes a game goes to the wire and credit to the lads they stuck in until the final hooter.
“I have to give credit to Tim Bergin for the goal in the last seconds – it was a pressure kick and he was very cool and did himself proud.”
The Eagles will face the students of Leeds Met University in the third round of the Carnegie Challenge with the game likely to be played at Don Valley on Sunday, March 6.