Rugby League: Aston proud of players’ mental strength

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Sheffield Eagles round off a hectic spell of three games in 10 days that’s put the focus back on the race for the league title with a trip to Barrow Raiders.

The players have shown the lure of instant glory in Cup competitions isn’t deflecting them from grinding out success in the Championship.

The Eagles have quarter-finals in the Challenge Cup and Northern Rail coming up but have put that to one side says coach Mark Aston.

“We have to be mentally strong, that’s the key for us now,” he said. “The lads are raising the bar themselves, I’m just pointing them in the right direction.

“Mitch Stringer (club captain) has taken them by the scruff of the neck and dragged them up to that standard. They train like champion players. That makes it easy for me.”

The Eagles cemented their place in the pack of five teams that is drawing away at the top of the league with a 31-18 win over Halifax.

That was followed by an away game at Hunslet Hawks last night and a trip to Barrow Raiders on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).

Both clubs are in the bottom four but the Eagles only two defeats this season have come in away games.

Aston said: “We can’t drop the standards, that’s the important thing. All that great effort against Halifax counts for nothing if we don’t back it up.”

Eagles have beaten Barrow in the league and Rail Cup this season - scoring 108 points and conceding 28. But Craven Park is a different challenge with visiting teams often punished as they shake off the effects of the long coach journey.

“Barrow need the points and will be smarting from their visits to Sheffield,” said Aston. “We’re doing well but there’s a lot of competition for places, the lads are looking over their shoulder and eager to impress - that keeps you performing.”

The Eagles recovered from a slow start against Halifax to run in five tries from Eddie Battye, Patch Walker, Quentin Laulu-Togagae, Duane Straugheir and Menzie Yere. Dominic Brambani kicked five goals and his late drop goal denied Fax a losing bonus point.

Aston said: “The boys were outstanding for large parts of the game. Halifax caught us cold at the start but we kept our composure and got back into the game. Early in the season we might have panicked but we’re learning every week and stayed cool.”

Eagles will face Dewsbury Rams in the quarter-finals of the Rail Cup (date to be confirmed) and the Challenge Cup clash with London Broncos is on Friday 12 July. Both games are at Don Valley Stadium.