2013 - Back to Back Champions
Sheffield Eagles become the first club to retain the Championship title
After the success of 2012 the Eagles once again reigned supreme in 2013, coming from behind to defeat Batley Bulldogs 19-12 in the Championship Grand Final. It was a season in which the team established themselves as one of if not the best outfits outside of Super League, playing scintillating rugby league throughout the season. A televised Challenge Cup quarter final appearance against London Broncos at Don Valley in front of a crowd that was almost definitely larger than the official figure of 2459 was certainly another highlight of the season. Though successful, it was also a season of frustration and ‘if onlys’, losing the Northern Rail Cup final and narrowly missing out on the league leader’s shield. The victory in Leigh was also a bittersweet moment, with Don Valley Stadium (DVS) officially closing on the same day. This marked the beginning of 9 years of off field turmoil for the club.
A season of records
2013 was a season in which many long-held club records were not only broken, but quite frankly obliterated! The Eagles recorded their biggest ever winning margin against Leigh East in the Challenge Cup, defeating the amateur side 112-6. Menzie Yere scored five tries during the match, equalling Daryl Powell’s record that had stood since 1989. Yere was in unstoppable form, smashing the try scoring record that QLT had made the season before. In all, Yere crossed the whitewash a staggering 46 times. All these tries meant lots of conversions, and Dom Brambani certainly obliged. The halfback kicked a record 169 goals and scored a total of 361 points, eclipsing Mark Aston’s previous record tally.
In the league, the Eagles had an extremely successful campaign, winning 22 of 26 matches and amassing 67 points (after gaining a losing bonus point). When attending home matches at DVS and Bramall Lane there was always an anticipation and expectation of victory. Supporters found themselves discussing not whether we would win but how much we would win by, with the Eagles regularly defeating teams by 20 points or more. Despite being quality all season, it was Featherstone Rovers who once again came out on top of the league table. It was a close- run thing though, with the Eagles having the chance to move a point in front of Rovers in the penultimate game of the season when the two faced off at the Big Fellas’s Stadium. Sadly, it wasn’t to be with Featherstone winning the game 24-40.
Northern Rail Cup
2013 also saw the Eagles enjoy their most successful run in what would be the final season of the Northern Rail Cup. Victories against Barrow, Dewsbury, and Doncaster saw the club reach the final for the first time. The final against Leigh at The Shay in Halifax was a tight and ill-tempered affair for the majority of the 80 minutes. Prop Liam Higgins and Leigh’s Steve Maden were sent off after a brawl on 47 minutes. In the second half, with the Eagles up 24-16, QLT found himself with a two man overlap but elected not to pass to the wing and was tackled just short of the line. It could and should have been a decisive score. After this the momentum of the game changed, with Leigh scoring 27 unanswered points in the last 25 minutes to claim a 43-24 victory.
For the third season in a row the Eagles found themselves in the Championship showpiece event. This time though they were in the unusual position of being favourites against a typically plucky Batley Bulldogs side who had defeated Featherstone Rovers to make it to the Leigh Sports Village. It was perhaps this unusual pressure which contributed to an uncharacteristically lacklustre performance for most of the match. Sat in the stands at half time trailing 12-0, supporters were hit with the sickening thought that despite pushing for silverware in three competitions we would somehow finish 2013 with precious little to show for it. The second half continued in the same vein as the first until Scott Turner finally got the Eagles on the board on 55 minutes, touching down in the left corner. Suddenly the players had found their mojo, with Menzie Yere barging over in the same corner 6 minutes later to make it 12-8. On 64 minutes captain Mitch Stringer came up with a superhuman play, ankle tapping Batley’s Ben Black on the Eagles left edge to stop a certain try. Stringer’s effort would prove crucial, with Sheffield drawing level 4 minutes later and then finally taking the lead on the 70 minute mark following a trademark jinking run by QLT. Brambani finally kicked a conversion, and a Patch Walker drop goal sealed an historic victory for the men in red and gold.
Share your memories
Do you have any memories of that season? You can share them with the Heritage Project here.