Rugby League: Eagles set for ‘clash of the champs’

Dons Kyle Kesik is congratulated after his try against Barrow
Dons Kyle Kesik is congratulated after his try against Barrow

SHEFFIELD Eagles and Doncaster are gearing up for a clash of the Champions tonight.

The clubs won the divisional Grand Finals last season will meet in the first South Yorkshire league derby since 2009.

Eagles go into the game at Don Valley Stadium, kick-off 7.30pm, defending a six-match winning run but the Dons have lost their last four games.

For Eagles coach Mark Aston, that doesn’t count in a derby game.

“They were promoted as champions of last year and we won our championship – so it’s a clash of the Champions,” he said.

“They will have them fired up. This is a derby game and we’ve got to be careful not to underestimate them. We can expect a tough game.”

The winners will take the South Yorkshire Autism Plus Trophy with Aston adding: “There’s more than bragging rights at stake – there’s a cup and three points.”

The slight rise in temperatures in the last 24 hours has boosted efforts to get the Don Valley Stadium pitch ready but it will be heavy.

Aston said: “The pitch could potentially have an impact; we like to play on top of the field, play it quick and it could slow us down. That’s another challenge for us.

“It might not be the quickest game of rugby league.”

Doncaster will include former Eagles Kyle Kesik and Grant Edwards and have re-signed prop forward Adam Scott from Batley.

Coach Tony Miller can also call on dual reg players from Wakefield but the key to his team’s challenge is former Wildcats and Hull stand-off Paul Cooke, the 2012 Championship Player of the Year.

“Paul got his mojo back and he’s playing well; I’ve watched Doncaster’s games and he’s very instrumental in what they do,” said Aston. “They are big and strong and playing better than their recent results show.”

The 13 that knocked Featherstone off the top of the league in the last game are set to start for the Eagles.