Sheffield Eagles 41
HALIFAX’S hopes of opening their Co-operative Championship account for the year disappeared in a torrent of first half errors at Bramall Lane.
Matt Calland’s side were simply dreadful before the break, despite another raft of changes after the second half collapse against Featherstone 10 days earlier.
Graham Holroyd started alongside Ben Black, with Danny Jones dropping to the bench, Miles Greenwood coming in at full back and Neil Cherryholme, Michael Ostick and Paul Smith selected in a reshaped pack.
It didn’t work, as the Eagles opened up a matchwinning 22-6 advantage against a team clearly lacking that un-coachable ingredient: confidence.
Fax lacked punch and direction in possession and when they did get some kind of attacking foothold, they invariably let their hosts off the hook with schoolboy mistakes.
The defence was little better, with the Eagles scoring four first half tries with alarming ease and puncturing their visitors at regular intervals throughout the game.
Fax were given a massive let off inside four minutes, their former loose forward Joe Hirst striding through a yawning gap on the visitors’ left before spearing what should have been a scoring pass to winger Tim Bergin into the front row of the stand.
But when Fax got an attacking chance, they made the most of it, Jon Goddard’s pass to Greenwood being knocked down and Joe Chandler swooping on the loose ball before adding a nice one-handed touchdown.
Holroyd converted for 6-0 and Fax should have doubled their lead virtually from the kick off, Greenwood racing clear down the other flank and putting what should have been a try on a plate for Rob Worrincy, only for the former Eagles flyer to spill the ball with the try line open.
They paid for their profligacy almost immediately, Quentin Togagae’s half break and quick play the ball getting Fax back pedalling and the formidable centre Menzie Yere charging over the remnants of the defence from dummy half.
Simon Brown converted from touch and the Eagles were in again on the 16 minute mark, Fax conceding a drop out and penalty back to back, Kyle Wood and Togagae foxing Fax on the left and winger Vinny Finigan diving over in the corner.
Brown skewed his kick wide, leaving Fax trailing 10-6 at the end of the first quarter, and the Eagles piled on the pressure, with Holroyd forced to concede another drop out from Brown’s clever kick.
And as the heavens opened over Bramall Lane, the Eagles went further in front, Alex Rowe taking Andrew Henderson’s pass and powering through three defenders on the goalline.
Brown tagged on the conversion for 16-6 and Fax looked badly in need of some inspiration.
Worse was to follow as Bergin scored a comedy try as Fax’s left side defence fell apart, with Brown’s conversion from the sideline giving the visitors a mountain to climb at 22-6.
Fax finally gained an attacking foothold as half time loomed, Black’s kick through being knocked dead to give the visitors a repeat set, but the Australian’s subsequent second-tackle knock on let the home side off the hook without them having to break sweat.
The question at half time was whether Fax would fight back or crumble.
A couple of penalties set them on their way and Holroyd produced a nice short ball for Chandler, who applied another powerful finish to the left of the posts.
Holroyd missed the conversion, but at 22-10 Fax could at least see a light at the end of the tunnel.
But when Greenwood’s error gave Sheffield their first field position of the half, the first half flaws were exposed again, Andrew Henderson exploiting some shocking marker defence to score under the posts.
Brown kicked Sheffield 28-10 ahead and when Kyle Wood scored with 23 minutes to go, Brown converting, the game was over as a contest at 34-10.
Paul White pulled back a consolation score with 20 to go, and then looked to have scored again after a long run down the left from Goddard, only for referee Mathew Thomason to eventually rule the try out for a knock on in back play.
If that score had been given, Fax would have been within 10 points with 16 minutes to go and the impossible may have been on.
The visitors still hauled themselves into bonus point territory when Bob Beswick sent Worrincy over in the corner with a slick short side ball, Holroyd converting from touch.
But even that comfort disappeared six minutes from the end when Brown stroked over a drop goal leaving Fax point-less.