Sheffield Eagles at Christmas
We look back to Sheffield Eagles games over the Christmas period from years gone by
The move from winter to summer rugby in 1996 saw the end of rugby league games over the Christmas period.
The first Christmas Game
The first Sheffield Eagles season in 1984 / 85 saw them finishing 17th in the second division with 8 wins out of 28 games. It was a tough first winter for the Club and they were on a run of 7 losses as they came into their first ever game over the Christmas period. This was as an away game against Mansfield Marksman on Boxing Day, following an away loss to Salford a few days before. The game against Mansfield was a battle of the two newest teams in rugby league with Mansfield having played their first ever game on the same day as the Eagles. Mansfield had a more successful start to their season, with more funding available than the Eagles they finished the season in 9th. Mansfield were looking the more successful team at that point with more chance of a successful future. With ten minutes to go the game was tied at 20-20 but it wasn't to be a first Christmas win for the Eagles as Mansfield scored a late try, winning the game 26-20. The Eagles tries came from Mark Campbell, Mark Gamson and Paul Welsh with four goals from Arnold Hema.
The First Christmas Win
The Eagles were more successful with their second festive game when they played Workington Town away on 22nd December 1985 with a 26-8 victory. It's always a difficult trip to Cumbria but tries by Roy Rafferty, Derek Bridgeman, Paddy Burgoyne, Kevin Farrell and Mark Roiall with five goals from Roy Rafferty meant it was a relatively comfortable victory. This was also the first game where the Eagles were sponsored by Whitbread, a partnership that lasted for over 10 years.
Christmas Games Over the Years
The following season saw revenge for the Eagles against Mansfield Marksman with a 26-10 away win on the 28th December 1986. 1987 saw another away win for the Eagles with a 32-2 away win at Doncaster on 27th December 1987.
There was another away win on Boxing Day 1988 against Doncaster with a 34-20 win. Boxing Day 1989 was a less successful away trip to Hull with a 15-6 loss for the Eagles. 1990 saw a home game against St Helens on 23rd December, with an 18-8 win for the Eagles. 1991 was another Boxing Day game, and another away game, this time against Ryedale-York which saw the Eagles lose 8-6.
It was an away game on Boxing Day again in 1992, playing against Hull with the Eagles losing 24-10. There was yet another away game in 1993 with an away win 24-14 on 28th December against Leigh.
It was a first on Boxing Day in 1994, with a home game against Doncaster at Don Valley Stadium with the Eagles winning 30-22 in front of a crowd of 3,039. 1995 saw the last Eagles game over the Christmas period in the pre-Super League era with 1995 / 96 being the last season of Winter rugby. The game on 20th December was the closest to Christmas and that was home to Halifax, with a 38-14 win for the Eagles at Don Valley Stadium in front of a crowd of 1,594.
The rebirth of the Sheffield Eagles
Christmas 1999 saw a "Christmas Miracle". Following the merger of Sheffield Eagles and Huddersfield Giants at the end of the 1999 it seemed like the Eagles were no more. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group the Eagles were reformed and on 28th December 1999 - the start of the 2000 season - the "new" Eagles played their first game. This away trip to Lancashire Lynx saw the Eagles win 33-20 and was the start of the rebuilding process, leading the Club to where it is today. You can read more about how the Club was reborn and that 1999 season HERE.
For a short period in the early 2000s despite the move to "Summer" rugby, games were still being played over Christmas as seasons began in the December. So for the 2001 season the Eagles played on Boxing Day 2000 away to Doncaster Dragons, losing 22-2.
The following year on 23rd December (part of the 2002 season) the Eagles once again played Doncaster, this time at home, winning 36-14.
After this point the season moved towards January and February starts with no more Christmas games.
Memories of Christmas Games
Do you have any memories of Eagles games over the Christmas period? Did they become part of your Christmas routine? Let us know. You can contact us HERE.