Round Twelve of the 2022 Betfred Championship was brought to a close by a Monday evening televised fixture between the Sheffield Eagles and Widnes Vikings with both sides fully aware that they are rapidly losing touch with the top half of the table and with it any hope of a play-off place.
It was a historic night for the Eagles as they made a welcome return to the Olympic Legacy Park after the lengthy reconstruction project overran, the ground now with what will eventually be an increased capacity of 3,900.
The bookies went with the home side and gave the visitors a six-point start on the handicap coupon, but this really was anyone’s game, the side who turned up on the night would take the point and draw level with the Bradford Bulls in seventh spot.
A forward pass from Sheffield gifted an early try from Widnes on four minutes when Lloyd Roby ran the angle and went through a gap in the sliding defence. Steve Tyrer added the conversion from wide, not the homecoming that the Eagles had hoped for.
When Sheffield put the kick-off out on the full, Widnes took full advantage with Sam Wilde going down the left side and avoiding the Eagles tacklers to dive over. Tyrer added the conversion from the touchline for 12-0.
The Eagles were on the score board on fourteen, Ben Jones-Bishop in an acre of space down the right wing to take a miss-out pass and walk in from five metres out. Izaac Farell added the conversion to reduce the arrears to six points.
Joe Edge spilled a high Sheffield kick on twenty-one and on the first play from the back of the scrum Jason Bass found himself in plenty of space after Izaac Farrell pulled in the winger. Farrell was again accurate with the boot and the sides were tied up at 12-12.
Owen Farnworth and Anthony Thackeray got into a tussle on thirty-three minutes, Sheffield opting to kick at goal from the resulting penalty with Farrell kicking the goal to give the Eagles the lead for the first time in the game.
Quentin Laulu-Togaga´e should have extended that lead just before the break after taking a great Jones-Bishop inside pass but great Vikings defence prevented him grounding the ball and the sides went into the interval separated by just two points, the game living up to expectations.
The Eagles extended their lead on forty-eight as Kris Welham took a long looping pass over the Widnes defence to go in down the right-hand side. Farrell failed to convert for the first time on the night, Sheffield now six points ahead.
Four minutes later, and from the back of the scrum, Bass got a touch pass from Thackeray and ran the angle to go over in the left corner. Farrell missed again from the touchline, Sheffield now dominating the game.
A brilliant break from Joel Farrell put the Eagles deep in the Vikings twenty and on the next play Mikey Wood took the short pass and dragged two tacklers over the line with him to ground. This time Farrell added the conversion for 28-12.
On the hour mark a sensational double dummy from Izaac Farrell saw the half back jink his way over from twenty metres to score under the sticks. He added the conversion himself; it was all one-way traffic as Widnes had no response, now needing four converted tries.
Late consolation on seventy-six after some intricate passing saw Danny Craven in support to take the pass and go in. Tyrer added the conversion for 18-34. Ryan Ince grabbed a fourth Vikings try with just over a minute left on the clock when he took a Spedding pass to go over in the corner and improve the angle. Tyrer added the conversion again to reduce the arrears to ten points.
It was the perfect homecoming for the Eagles, despite going 12-0 behind early in the game, as they ran in six tries to take the points off a Widnes side who rallied well in the closing minutes to reduce the losing margin. The Eagles have jumped above the Bradford Bulls and into seventh, Widnes still five points off the top six.
Sheffield Eagles: Laulu-Togaga´e, Jones-Bishop (T), Welham (T), Guzdek, Bass (2T), Farrell I (T, 5G), Thackeray, Douglas, Holmes, Wood (T), Oakes, Farrell J, Hodgson. Subs: Dickinson, Broadbent, Shaw, Aydin.
Widnes Vikings: Roby (T), Ince, Spedding, Tyrer (3G), Edge, Lyons, Smith, Field, Fozard, Doro, Davies, Wilde (T), Brown. Subs: Craven (T), Baker, Farnworth, Lawton.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 4-12, 6-12, 10-12, 12-12, 14-12 : HT : 18-12, 22-12, 26-12, 28-12, 32-12, 34-12, 34-16, 34-18, 34-22, 34-24 : FT.
Referee: Matt Rossleigh.