2012 - Grand Final Glory
The Eagles win the Championship Grand Final for the first time.
The 2012 Championship season was one of the most significant in the club’s recent history. After losing in the decider the season before, the Eagles made it second time lucky against Featherstone Rovers, defeating them 20-16 in an enthralling contest in Warrington. It was the first major trophy for the club since re-forming and the title marked the beginning of a golden era for the club.
The Regular Season
The first game of the season was played against Swinton lions in front of an excellent crowd of over 1800 people at Don Valley. The club organised a carnival day pitch side before the game to draw in more families and young supporters, with the injured Dane McDonald being “gunged” before the game. Not to be outdone by sumo suits, rodeo bulls, and candyfloss, the Eagles provided some excellent entertainment on the pitch too, defeating the lions 56-22. Dom Brambani scored his 100th point for the club with a try in the first half. The free scoring performance would set the tone for the rest of the campaign, with Menzie Yere and Quentin Laulu- Togagae each picking up a try. Both would shine throughout the season, becoming regulars on the scoresheet. Whilst Menzie’s destructive running was brutally effective from close range, QLT provided the Eagles with excitement, skill, flare and was a potent long- range attacking weapon. At times he was simply unplayable, skipping past defenders on his way to score a club record 35 tries.
After winning on the opening day the Eagles never looked back. A 40‐60 away win against reigning champions Featherstone Rovers at the Big Fellas Stadium was certainly one of the most memorable victories, even if it was a score line the defensive coaches of both clubs would rather forget! After a tough run of three straight defeats in late April, including away against Catalan Dragons in the Challenge Cup fifth round, the Eagles would go on a remarkable run that would see them lose only twice in their next 16 league and playoff matches. The Eagles finished the regular season in 4th place, winning twelve, losing five, and drawing once against Featherstone.
The Play Offs and the Grand Final
The Eagles cruised past Batley in the first round before putting Halifax, a team they had failed to beat in the regular season, to the sword at the Shay by 54 points to 12. Just like in 2011, the Eagles once again played Leigh Centurions at the Leigh Sports Village in the semi-final, and it was déjà vu as they battled past the hosts by 10 points to secure their place in the decider.
Like the semi, the final was also a repeat of 2011 as the Eagles faced league leaders and strong favourites Featherstone Rovers. There was to be no Groundhog Day though, with the team avenging their previous 40‐4 loss. Winger Scott Turner opened the scoring on 12 minutes, diving over in the corner after an outstanding flick pass by Menzie Yere. Rovers responded quickly with a try of their own and two penalty goals.
On 31 minutes QLT scored one of the most iconic Eagles tries. Pinned in on their own ten metre line on the third tackle and with fatigue clearly setting in amongst some of the middlemen, Michael Knowles ran down the short side and passed to Yere on the left edge. Fending off a man, he passed back inside for Misi Taulapapa who offloaded inside for winger Scott Turner. In a remarkable piece of skill Turner caught and passed to QLT in a split second as he was picked up and dumped on his back by a Featherstone defender. The offload was so quick that it took the camera operator who was recording the game a couple of seconds to realise that Turner had got the ball away! QLT then did what he had done all season and danced around three Featherstone defenders to complete a stunning 70 metre move. Simon Brown converted for a 10-8 lead going into half time.
Featherstone levelled just after the resumption as the heavens opened. The game see sawed as both teams exchanged quickfire tries, before Taulapapa collected a Brambani chip and touched down on the right wing on 57 minutes. Brown angled his kick perfectly from the touchline for a narrow 20-16 advantage. And that’s how the scores stayed. After what seemed like an eternity for Eagles fans the fulltime hooter finally blew.
What it Meant
The win was the culmination of year-on-year improvement on the pitch following promotion from National League Two in 2006. It just rewards for Mark Aston and all those who had battled to keep Sheffield Eagles alive following the merger with Huddersfield in 1999. After 14 years of struggle major silverware was finally on its way back to South Yorkshire.
Share your memories
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