Sheffield Eagles 32 Bradford Bulls 30: Eagles hang on to boost top-four hopes

Sheffield Eagles' s'Misi Taulapapa is stopped in his track. Photo: ' Dean Atkins
Sheffield Eagles' s'Misi Taulapapa is stopped in his track. Photo: ' Dean Atkins

Sheffield Eagles boosted their top-four hopes with a nail-biting victory over Bradford Bulls in an enthalling encounter at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Mark Aston’s men looked to be heading for a comfortable victory following a four-try haul in the first half as they raced into a 30-6 lead but Bradford stormed back in the final quarter to put the game in the balance.

Eagles welcomed back Sam Smeaton back into the fold following his one-match suspension as Duane Straugheir moved back into the second-row.

Despite a strong start from Eagles, Bulls scored with their first foray when Jake Mullaney made a timely break after Adam Sidlow was held up just shy of the line with Eagles conceding three penalties within minutes.

However Eagles fought back almost immediately when Misi Taulapapa provided a superb assist to Quentin Laulu Togagae, who made no mistake to race for the line with a minimum of fuss.

Moments later, Keal Carlile was held up just short before Menzie Yere looked to bulldoze his way over from point-blank range but he was denied by a Bulls’ wall of defenders.

Scott Turner came within a whisker of giving Eagles the initiative when he superbly collected Kyle Briggs’ bouncing kick to touchdown in the tightest of angles but he was adjudged to have had a foot in touch.

However, Eagles finally broke Bradford resistance just shy of the half hour when Dominic Brambani’s grubber kick was spilled by Danny Addy and the ball rolled tantalisingly into the path of Briggs, who made no mistake to pounce on the loose ball.

Eagles took a firm grip on the game when firstly Tony Tonks showed great upperbody strength to power his way under the sticks before Rob Worrincy was the grateful recipent of Smeaton’s superb run and offload as he sneaked in at the corner despite the last-gasp efforts of Bradford’s cover defence.

The ex-Halifax winger was in the thick of the action at the start of the second half when he doubled his tally after he was left unmarked following Laulu Togagae’s darting run to extend the lead to 22 points.

Eagles continued to press and Briggs planted a penalty kick infront of the sticks.

Bulls reduced the deficit when Mullaney shrugged off the attentions of Smeaton to waltz to the line before Ryan Shaw rounded off a fine move.

Shaw then raced down the right flank and Mullaney notched his hat-trick score to reduce the Eagles lead to six.

Briggs gave the home side breathing space with a long-range penalty but Jay Pitts pounced on a bouncing ball which was not dealt with decisively to bring the lead back to two points going into the dying minutes.

Eagles: Laulu Togagae, Turner, Yere, Smeaton, Worrincy, Briggs, Brambani, Thorpe, Carlile, Stringer, Knowles, Straughier, Taulapapa. Interchange: Battye, Davey, Davies, Tonks

Scorers: Laulu Togagae (15), Briggs (29), Tonks (33), Worrincy (36, 43)

Goals: Briggs 4/5

Penalty Goal:- Briggs 2/2

Bradford: Mendeika, Shaw, Blythe, Henry, Uaisele, Mullaney, Addy, Lauaki, O’Brien, Sidlow, Ferguson, Walker, Pitts. Interchange:- Caro, Walshaw, Crossley, Fleming

Scorers: Mullaney (12, 63, 70), Shaw (65), Pitts (75)

Goals: Shaw 5/5

Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow.

Attendance: 2153