Chance to claim crown will act as Aston’s spur

THE pain of defeat was clear to see for Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston.

He could be in trouble with the RFL for failing to attend the post-match press conference following his side’s 43-28 Northern Rail Cup final loss against Leigh Centurions.

And, later on, the Sheffield chief conceded it will be a battle to lift his own morale after watching the Championship Grand Final winners throw away a gilt-edged chance of more silverware.

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“We’re disappointed but we live another day,” said Aston, whose side twice squandered eight-point leads.

“We keep getting these smacks in the chops but we’ll learn before long.

“I’ll need to pick myself up first but, come Tuesday, we’ll all be positive again.

“We’ve a big week – we play Friday, Wednesday and Sunday – and there’s eight games to go in the league.

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“If we win all eight games, we can be crowned as champions (League Leaders’ Shield) and that’s what we want to do.”

It may take some effort, though, as after a 15-match winning run they have now lost two on the bounce admittedly against tough opposition.

Sheffield’s Challenge Cup loss against London Broncos was compounded by Saturday’s reverse versus Leigh, who once more proved their pedigree in a record-breaking fifth final.

Eagles are likely to be without prop Liam Higgins for some of their run-in, too, as he faces a suspension for his part in the 48th-minute brawl that saw him and Leigh’s Steve Maden both red-carded.

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After eight successful years at Blackpool, with average crowds of around 8,000, the final’s switch to Halifax’s Shay Stadium backfired with a hugely disappointing crowd of just 4,179.

That mattered little to Leigh coach Paul Rowley, however, the ex-Halifax hooker who was part of the club’s first success in 2004, beating Hull KR, and again two years later against the same opponents.

“We know how to play on the big occasion and it showed,” he said.

“Our fans were immense. They love a day out and they really made the atmosphere; we made this our home ground.

“We were a bit off in the first half but, obviously, we addressed that and defensively there were some really good performers out there. Our aggression in defence forced errors.”