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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

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Workington Town close to clipping champions Eagles’ wings

Workington Town 24 Sheffield Eagles 28: Championship Grand Final winners Sheffield Eagles were given a searching test at Derwent Park as Workington Town came close to their second win.

Workington Town photo
Mark Calderwood, left

The Cumbrians were unable to hold a fourteen point half-time lead as Sheffield just did enough to come back and win a cliff-hanger with three unanswered tries.

Town had put themselves in a strong position at half-time with s 24-10 lead as they doubled their season’s try tally with four touchdowns.

When they came out onto the pitch after a shortened half-time break you sensed that Sheffield coach Mark Aston’s message to his players was straight and to the point – “That was awful, go out there and put it right.”

They were out early for the second-half, well ahead of their hosts, and went on to score three converted tries without reply to win the game and leave Town only with a bonus points to show for their gritty effort.

In truth Town deserved more than just a point for their efforts and throughout no player epitomised the Workington effort more than loose-forward Karl Olstrum.

Watch video highlights of Workington v Sheffield. Article continues below...


His work rate all around the park was phenomenal, following-up a stand-out show against Doncaster with another top class display. He’s certainly one Town player who is completely at ease in the higher level of Championship rugby.

Town’s lack of craft had been a problem for the coaching team in the three previous matches so they were delighted that they opened-up the Sheffield defence four times in the first-half.

Mind you early on it looked as though they might be contemplating more of the same as they dominated the first ten minutes without being able to get over.

Andy Morris looked to be going in when he had the ball ripped from his grasp; Jarrad Stack was held-up over the line and a clever kick from the lively Calum Phillips forced a Sheffield drop-out.

So it was very much against the run of play when Sheffield went ahead on 12 minutes. After being given a second set of six in the shadow of the Town posts hooker Andrew Henderson almost sauntered through from eight yards to touchdown under the posts. Dominic Brambani put over the conversion.

But Town were level within two minutes. The initial attack out on the left was repulsed but when the ball was moved back across to the right James Coyle spotted a gap and went 15 metres to mark his starting debut with a well-taken try which Brett Carter converted.

That lifted Town and five minutes later they had the lead. Sheffield lost the ball on last tackle just inside the Workington 20 zone. Mark Calderwood hacked on and then it was a foot race between the former England international and Nev Morrison.

Although Morrison was favourite and seemed to be getting there Calderwood stuck out a foot to hack on again and as Morrison went to ground the home winger went on to collect a nice bounce on the 20 and race over under the sticks for Carter to convert.

Town were roused now and on 31 minutes scored a third try from close range. Adam Walne twisted and turned in a tackle and then used his strength to take three defenders over the line with him and get the ball down. Carter added the extras for an 18-6 lead.

Sheffeld, who had been laborious in possession and unsure in defence, stirred themselves and scored their second try on 34 minutes.

The highly-rated Quentin-Laulu-Togagae had largely been kept quiet but he injected some much-needed pace to slice between two defenders and as the cover closed he released the ball for Morrison to get over in the corner.

But Workington, deservedly, finished the half on top – their best 40 minutes of the season so far.

Coyle, who had a very promising first start, produced a clever, hanging cross kick from left to right and Calderwood rose above Morrison to catch and dive over the line. Carter’s splendid touchline conversion rounded-off a great half.

Sheffield, clearly wound-up by Aston’s stinging half-time assessment of their efforts, responded well and had cut the deficit to two points within five minutes of the re-start.

James Davey sneaked over from close range and then big-hitting Mitchell Stringer forced his way over, again from only a few metres. Brambani converted both.

Sheffield’s surge was put on hold seven minutes into the second-half when Town centre Andy Morris suffered a head injury while tackling Menzie Yere. The game was held-up for ten minutes before he was stretchered off and he was taken to hospital where he was said to be making good progress after the game.

Town went close on a couple of occasions but Sheffield’s defence was more resilient. The home side and their fans were also frustrated by some of referee Warren Turley’s decisions as the game drew to a close.

The winning score came nine minutes from the end. Again it was from close-in and Workington seemed to have enough defenders there but Stringer was able to get through them to ground the ball and Brambani landed his best conversion of the afternoon.

Workington Town: Carter, Hulme, Mossop, Morris, Calderwood, Lupton, Coyle, Dowes, C. Phillips, Thackray, B. Phillips, Stack, Olstrum. Subs (all used): Coward, Acton, Walne, Shackley.

Tries: Calderwood (19, 38), Coyle (14), Walne (31). Goals: Carter (4/5)

Sheffield Eagles: Laulu-Togagae, Morrison, Garside, Armstrong, Taulapapa, Smith, Brambani, Howieson, Henderson, Stringer, Knowles, Green. Subs (all used): Davey, Straugher, Yere, Walker.

Tries: Henderson (12), Morrison (34), Davey (45), Stringer (49, 70). Goals: Brambani (4/5)

Referee: Warren Turley (Leigh)

Crowd: 683

Man of the match: Karl Olstrum

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