Rugby: eagles banging the drum in old home’s last year

Don Valley Stadium
Don Valley Stadium

Time is running out fast for Don Valley Stadium but not for long-time tenants Sheffield Eagles.

The Eagles are making the most of the final months before the bulldozers move in producing exciting rugby packed with tries.

The 56-18 victory over Whitehaven keeps the Eagles two points ahead at the top of the Championship.

They have also made sure that their home for 23 years will have some last hurrahs with quarter-finals in the Northern Rail and Challenge Cup booked for the coming month.

Rugby league fans yesterday filled only 1,028 of the 22,000 seats at the venue but they made up for that in enthusiasm with chants of ‘Eee-gulls, Eee-gulls’ led by the beat of the man with a drum in the crowd.

The win wiped out one of only two defeats for Mark Aston’s team who lost at Haven on April 1 - since then Eagles have had the last laugh going on an 11-game run of victories in all competitions.

Fullback Quentin Laulu-Togagae scored his second hat-trick of tries in successive games with Menzie Yere taking his total for the season to 25.

Haven’s coach was delayed on the way to Don Valley with the game kick-off 15 minutes late and it took time for both teams to get into gear, but the visitors were blown away by five tries in the final 22 minutes of the first half.

Aston was happy to take the win but still feels the team must improve if they are to take the Championship leader’s shield.

“It’s a win but we missed a number of chances so it could have been a lot more,” he said.

“I’m a bit fed up with letting 18 points in, I challenged the lads to keep it under 10 and we failed - that’s not good enough. We’re the chumps at the moment but we want to be the champs and we’ve got to smarten up.”

With a Rail Cup quarter-final against Dewsbury on Friday, he added: “We need to make sure we start a bit better than we did today and people have to understand good defence is the key to us going forward.”

Eagles got their try machine rolling on nine minutes when for the first time Laulu-Togagae came into the line and weaved his way in from 20 metres. Brambani added the goal.

Haven made their limited possession count with Rhys Clarke going through a gap before sending in Carl Southerwood in near the posts. The half-back added the two.

Eagles reply was swift with three tries in six minutes each time targeting the Haven right flank. Scott Turner raced down the line before passing inside for Yere to finish.

Michael Knowles took the same route and almost put in Laulu-Togagae before regaining the ball and passing to Turner who finished.

From a scrum Laulu-Togagae ran on to a pass from Brambani to go in for his second try. Brambani kicked the first two goals.

It was damage-limitation time for Haven but a break down the middle by Yere opened them up and Brambani finished. With two minutes to half-time Peter Green celebrated 350 professional games by forcing his way over. Brambani added both goals to give the Eagles a 34-6 lead.

Haven’s afternoon was summed up when a Brambani kick deflected off a yellow shirt and gave Yere an easy second try.

Laulu-Togagae and Yere combined with the centre offloading for the fullback to go in for his hat-trick. Brambani added the goal.

Haven kept trying to go forward with Paul Jackson putting in some strong runs and were rewarded with two tries going into the final quarter. Eagles defence hesitated and second-rower Dave Houghton picked up a bouncing ball to crash over under the posts.

Neil Thorman’s break took him though the Eagles line and his pass sent Southernwood in for his second try. The half-back added both the goals.

Eagles resumed normal service with Patch Walker taking Andrew Henderson’s pass on the burst to go over with Brambani’s goal bringing up the 50 points for the Eagles.

Joe Greenwood was caught out by the bounce from a Brambani chip kick and centre Tom Armstrong touched down. Brambani added his eighth goal of the game

London Bronocs , who come to Don Valley in the Challenge Cup quarter-final next month, crashed to a 82-10 home defeat to Warrington at the weekend.