The Bulldogs' Sheffield hoodoo continued on this evening at a chilly Don Valley Stadium, as the Eagles broke out of a scoreless interval to clinch a 13-6 victory through the pinpoint kicking of scrum-half Dominic Brambani.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES 13-6 BATLEY BULLDOGS
Kingstone Press Cider Championship, Don Valley Stadium, 8 February 2013
It will be scant consolation for John Kear and his charges this evening that they clung on to top spot in the Championship after a sombre second-half display resulted in the Bulldogs' first defeat of 2013. By contrast, the Sheffield Eagles put aside their disappointing loss at Halifax last week with an impressive kicking game which undid a stern defensive display from the visitors.
The first half was unusual - that rarest of occurrences, no points scored in 40 minutes. It certainly wasn't for the want of trying, however. Both sides were wasteful with the ball in hand, but this was due to a really conscious effort to keep the ball alive, particularly in the case of the Bulldogs. However, in cold conditions, the ball was often spilled early in the tackle count, no doubt to the frustration of both coaches, and a scoreless first-half came as no real surprises with defences most definitely on top.
It took 16 minutes for a move of real quality to emerge; Greg Johnson broke clear of the Eagles defensive line but instead of going on the outside, the pacey winger took the wrong option, cutting inside and being swallowed up by retreating home markers. From the ensuing set, Ben Black's crossfield chip just failed to be reeled in by Miles Greenwood as the Bulldogs threatened. Twelve minutes later, it was Black trying to connect with Greenwood again at the line, but although the full-back touched down over the whitewash, the try was correctly ruled out for a forward pass.
HALF-TIME: SHEFFIELD EAGLES 0-0 BATLEY BULLDOGS
After arguably being second best in the first-half, the Eagles showed their Championship pedigree after the break to clinch a hard-earned victory. On 45 minutes, the hosts opened the scoring after the Bulldogs conceded a penalty for offside and with the Eagles starting deep in Bulldogs territory, Mitch Stringer connected with full-back Quentin Laula-Togagae who burst through to score, ably converted by Pat Walker. The visitors hit back and were unlucky not to level on 49 minutes as QLT turned from scorer to defender as he prevented Johnson touching down Tom Hemingway's deft kick by knocking the ball dead in-goal.
Shortly afterwards, Greenwood made a terrible hash of fielding Walker's kick on the last and from the resultant set, Brambani's kick to the corner was knocked backwards by Nev Morrison allowing Tom Armstrong the opportunity to extend the Eagles' lead. Walker converted again and the Bulldogs were staring down the barrel at 12-0. However, when Jack Howieson failed to play the ball correctly in front of his own sticks, he was severely punished from the resultant set when Jason Walton barged onto Black's pass to score. Tom Hemingway's simple conversion pulled the score back to 12-6.
Despite hauling themselves back into the game, the visitors never seemed likely to break the resistance of Sheffield, and the Bulldogs' fate was sealed on 71 minutes when Walker knocked over a drop-goal from an unchallenged position to clinch the three points.
So another missed opportunity to down the Eagles has come and gone for John Kear's men, and the visitors' disappointment will no doubt be compounded by turning in such a disappointing display after the interval in a game that was eminently winnable.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES: 1 Laulu-Togagae, 18 Morrison, 3 Yere, 4 Armstrong, 5 Taulapapa, 6 Walker, 7 Brambani, 8 Howieson, 9 Henderson, 10 Stringer, 11 Knowles, 12 Green, 15 Szostak. Interchange: 14 Davey, 22 Roche, 16 Straugheir, 17 Higgins.
T: Laulu-Togagae, Armstrong
G: Walker 2
BATLEY BULLDOGS: 1 Greenwood, 2 Potts, 3 Walton, 11 Bretherton, 21 Johnson, 6 Black, 23 Hemingway, 8 Smith, 9 Mennell, 19 Rowe, 12 Applegarth, 16 Davies, 13 Lindsay. Interchange: 24 Whitmore, 26 A. Walmsley, 10 Potter, 17 L. Walmsley.
SCORING SEQUENCE: HT, 6-0, 12-0, 12-6, 13-6
REFEREE: Ronnie Laughton
MAN OF THE MATCH: Dominic Brambani (Sheffield Eagles)