Rugby league: Sheffield Eagles 6 Halifax 21

Eagles' Michael Knowles in action against Halifax
Eagles' Michael Knowles in action against Halifax

Sheffield Eagles hopes of retaining their Championship crown suffered a setback with a 21-6 defeat by Halifax in the first play-off round.

The Eagles must now win a final elimination game next week if they are to make the semi-finals and have a chance of reaching a third successive Grand Final.

After a scoreless first half , Fax took control and outscored the Eagles by three tries to one.

A tense opening saw Joe Hirst go close for the Eagles but slick handling helped Halifax dominate the possession for most of the half.

Fax’s Ross Divorty followed up his own kick and touched down but the score was ruled out by the video referee.

The arm wrestle continued with Patch Walker just held short and Michael Knowles knocked on as he went for the line.

Scott Murrell attempted to put pressure on the Eagles with a series of kicks but full-back Quentin Laulu-Togagae had time to deal with them.

Confusion under the Eagles posts almost saw Murrell get to his chip kick but it play was pulled back for offside.

In the final minute of the half Dominic Brambani attempted a penalty from inside the Eagles half but the teams went in without a point on the score board.

Halifax broke the deadlock four minutes after the restart with Andy Bracek picking up his own kick and forcing his way over under the posts as the home defenders reacted slowly. Steve Tyrer added the goal.

Fax’s Dane Manning was yellow carded but before the Eagles could take advantage Matt Garside joined him in the sin-bin for a late tackle and Tyrer extended the visitor’s lead with the penalty.

Craig Ashall edged out the margin with a drop-goal but Eagles set up a dramatic finish with a try from Vinny Finigan converted by Brambani four minutes from time.

Their hope died as Hanforth raced in under the posts and Murrell followed up a chip kick in the final minute. Tyer added both goals.

Eagles: Laulu-Togagae; Finigan, Yere, Armstrong, Turner; Walker, Brambani; Battye, Henderson, Stringer, Knowles, Szostak, Hirst. Subs: Green, Davey, Higgins, Garside.

Halifax: Fieldhouse; Sheriffe, Tyler, Heaton, Reittie; Murrell, Handforth; Tonks, Craig Ashall, Davies, Manning , Divory, Adamson. Subs: Ambler, Bracek, Robinson, Holden.

Referee: Dave Merrick.

Penalties: 8-8.

Attendance: 773.