Sheffield Eagles began the new Betfred Championship season with a narrow defeat, despite a strong second half showing against Dewsbury Rams at a freezing Tetley’s Stadium.
Mark Aston’s new look side looked to have turned around their fortunes following a slow start when three quick-fire scores after the break gave them the advantage, but Dale Morton’s converted score edged it for the hosts despite late pressure from the Eagles.
Director of rugby Aston named nine new signings, whilst St. Helens quartet Jack Ashworth, Matty Lees, James Bentley and Jake Spedding were all included after signing at the start of this week on dual-registration.
After withstanding an early charge from the hosts, the Eagles came close themselves when Ashworth spilled under pressure close to the Dewsbury line.
Any notion of the Eagles warming to the task were quashed as Dewsbury bagged the first try. A classy pass from veteran Paul Sykes was finished by James Glover, with Sykes converting. The Rams extended their advantage when former Eagle Rob Worrincy dived over in the corner after the ball was switched quickly to the right, and Sykes converted.
The Eagles were showing signs of ring-rust, but enjoyed a good spell towards the end of the half with Lees twice held just before the whitewash.
Dewsbury finished the half with a third try when Dom Speakman threw a clever dummy to cross, but Sykes missed the extras.
The Eagles thought they were on the board right on the hooter but Ashworth’s try was chalked off after a clear forward pass from Cory Aston.
With the next try crucial, Aston’s side gave themselves a foothold when back-to-back penalties put them within range, allowing American Mark Offerdahl to force himself over the line. Oscar Thomas converted.
The try visibly gave the Eagles a lift and they narrowed the gap further when Joshua Toole scurried over from dummy half, and Thomas again converted as the visitors moved within two points.
A buoyant Eagles soon hit the front when a brilliant pass out of the tackle by Bentley allowed Spedding to score in the corner, and Thomas converted.
The lead was short-lived as Morton beat Ben Blackmore to score in the corner, and Sykes converted.
That would prove decisive despite a late effort from the Eagles who were kept out by a resolute Rams defence.
Dewsbury: Guzdek; Worrincy, Glover, Hallett, Morton; Sykes, Moore; Sheriffe, Ward, Teanby; Walshaw, Knowles; Brown. Interchange: Speakman, Everett, Reilly, Trout.
Scorers: Tries: Glover (7), Worrincy (20), Speakman (38), Morton (60) Goals: Sykes 2/4
Eagles: Millar; Macani, Spedding, Toole, Blackmore; Aston, Thomas; Lees, Fozard, Magrin; Ashworth, Pick; James. Interchange: Djalout, Bentley, Moran, Offerdahl.
Scorers: Tries: Offerdahl (48), Toole (51), Spedding (58) Goals: Thomas 3/3
Referee: G. Dolan