Sheffield Eagles edged a rollercoaster Championship Shield semi final at the Shay, finally beating Halifax 46-32 to secure a place in next week’s decider.
Mark Aston’s Eagles appeared to have the game in the bag when they led 28-6 at the break, with the home side enduring a nightmare opening 40 minutes, repeatedly incurring the ire of referee Callum Straw as they struggled to secure any meaningful possession.
But Richard Marshall’s side stormed back in the second half, closing the gap to 34-26 at one stage, before Sheffield finally managed to pull away in the closing minutes.
The Eagles wrestled the early momentum with a short kick off and never looked back, rolling forward with some ease and hooker Keal Carlile tormenting the home side around the ruck.
The Eagles scored their first try after four minutes, Carlile sparking a raid that ended with half-back Rhys Jacks scoring by the posts.
Cory Aston converted for a 6-0 lead and was on target six minutes later when prop Scott Wheeldon scored the first of his two tries.
A 12-0 lead became 14-0 with a simple penalty before Wheeldon’s carbon-copy second, converted by Aston, and another penalty gave Sheffield a quarter-time lead that already looked close to impregnable at 22-0.
Halifax rallied briefly, finally managing to secure some possession, but some indifferent defence let George Tyson sneak over on the right before the home side finally dented their deficit with a James Woodburn-Hall try after a speculative pass from Gareth Moore.
But Sheffield had the last word, Aston kicking his third penalty of the half as the teams headed to the dressing rooms at 28-6.
Halifax kicked off the second period by finding some momentum and scored twice in quick succession through Ed Barber, profiting from Moore’s break, and then hooker Brandon Moore.
Gareth Moore converted both as Sheffield’s lead shrank to 28-16, although another Aston penalty moved it out to 30-16.
Halifax scored again when Woodburn-Hall touched down Gareth Moore’s high kick, but the scrum half’s kick drifted just wide to leave the score at 30-20.
The sides traded tries again, Rob Worrincy scoring for Sheffield and Woodburn-Hall running in his second as the gap came down to 34-26.
Halifax were so close to another try when Moore made space on the right, but his pass was picked off by Garry Lo, who raced away down the sideline to score, Aston converting for a finally decisive 40-26 lead.
Tyson then rumbled in for a second, Aston kicking the goal, before Mitch Cahalane gave Fax some consolation with a score under the posts.
Halifax: Johnston; Heaton, Woodburn-Hall, Rawsthorne, Sharp; Murrell, G. Moore; Cahalane, Kaye, Ambler, Barber, Tangata, Fairbank. Substitutes: Bennion, B. Moore, Boyle, Nelmes.
Sheffield: Laulu-Togagae; Worrincy, Tyson, Chappell, Blackmore; Aston, Jacks; Wheeldon, Carlile, Neal, James, Straugheir, Minchella. Substitutes: Knowles, Fozard, Mexico, Lo.
Referee: C. Straw.