HALIFAX relinquished their Co-operative Championship title in the tamest of fashion, sinking without trace at Bramall Lane to a Misi Taulapapa-inspired Sheffield Eagles.
Damian Ball’s side, missing key forwards Makali Aizue and Jacob Fairbank through injury, were out of this contest after an embarrassing opening 28 minutes.
That was as long as it took Sheffield to run up a 26-6 lead that always looked decisive.
The visitors only rarely seemed capable of competing on an afternoon when their performance bore more resemblance to the fumblings that almost earned then coach Matt Calland the sack in the spring than the steely form that took them to the Northern Rail Cup final and into the play offs.
The Eagles’ big men were utterly dominant in the middle and, with that platform laid, Taulapapa, who will play for Hull KR in Super League next season, proved almost unplayable for the visitors’ left-side defence.
There was a fleeting rally early in the second half, Sean Penkywicz’s try briefly narrowing the gap to 26-12 as Fax enjoyed a rare period of ascendancy, but once Dane McDonald’s second try re-established Sheffield’s advantage at 32-12 the fight went out of the champions.
The visitors made an inauspicious start, conceding a penalty for holding down after just 47 seconds, which was converted by Simon Brown for a 2-0 lead.
They responded with an incisive attack down the middle, before the ball was spread to the left where Penkywicz’s short ball put Jon Goddard over for the first try of the game with six minutes on the clock.
Danny Jones converted superbly from the sideline, and Fax might have added to their tally when Goddard made a half break in the next set of possession.
But when the ball went loose – a sign of things to come – Taulapapa shoved off Haley on half way, sprinted clear and sent the full back Quentin Togagae under the posts.
Brown kicked the goal and when Joe Hirst stampeded over the top of full back Ryan Fieldhouse to score straight from the kick off, Brown’s conversion edging the Eagles out to 14-6, the signs were ominous.
They got worse in fairly short order, more handling errors and some truly hapless defence seeing Andy Henderson and McDonald score further tries, Brown’s boot ticking the scoreboard over to 26-6 after 28 minutes.
Fax improved marginally after that, at last managing to gain the faintest of footholds in the Eagles’ half, but their work with the ball, naturally enough, given their deficit, was frantic rather clinical.
And while a try before half time, which might have arrived when Penkywicz’s kick just eluded a flying Rob Worrincy, may have changed things, it was difficult to avoid the impression that the contest was already over as the sides headed to the dressing rooms.
That theme continued after the restart, Penkywicz’s cut out pass drifting high over the head of Fieldhouse, but when Fax did manage to find some territory and possession, they at least made it count.
Penkywicz stabbed the ball into the in goal to force a drop out and then scored the try himself, twisting over from point blank range and Jones kicking the conversion to make it 26-12.
The next try always looked crucial and it went to Sheffield, McDonald touching down.
Brown’s conversion and a subsequent penalty put his side 34-12 ahead going into the final quarter and from that moment Fax looked like a side who just wanted it all to end as quickly as possible.
Andy Henderson made it 38-12 and Fax were reduced to 12 men when Sam Barlow, one of the few who looked capable of physically matching the Eagles, was sin-binned for dissent after his pass to Goddard was ruled forward.
Sheffield piled on some more agony after that, Taulapapa touching down and Brown adding the extras for 44-12 before Johnny Woodcock brought the curtain down on Fax’s 2011 a minute from time.