Two teams of contrasting fortunes face off in Cumbria at the weekend, when Barrow Raiders host Sheffield Eagles.
Bobbie Goulding’s had a turbulent first season in charge of the Raiders, the former France boss has seen his club become the basement team in the league, as well as Goulding himself being banned for 5 weeks for verbally abusing a referee in their tightly contested match against Doncaster.
Mark Aston has made it publicly known that he has not been happy with his team’s season so far, labelling their third home win of the season last week as a ‘step backwards’. In a way, I could agree with Aston because if the game had lasted another 10 to 15 minutes, Crusaders would have been favourites to nick all three points.
Barrow’s season got that little bit more gruelling and dreadful at the weekend when Rochdale, fellow relegation candidates, put 54 points on the Cumbrians, showing just why the Raiders are in the position they find themselves in. A 54-22 victory for the Hornets, with McClurg and Case getting a brace a piece, culminated in the Craven Park outfit to bottom of the table by five points, and a colossus 17 points off safety. The shining light of Goulding’s troops is loose forward Dan Toal, who scored two tries in his team’s win at Owlerton in the third round of games. But when it rains for the Raiders, it pours, and Toal is currently sidelined with an ankle injury sufficient for a pot. Recent signings for Barrow are that of youth and not much experience, Goulding’s son Bradley has been snapped up, along with halfback Ben Karaulis and it is well rumoured that academy player Joe Handley and Dan Toal’s brother, Shane, are knocking on the coach’s door for a starting spot this weekend against the Eagles, where the Raiders are going for a rare double.
Sheffield Eagles are coming into the game off the back of a rarity, a home win in which they never really looked liked losing. A 24-16 win against 11th placed North Wales Crusaders wasn’t the easiest performance on the eye but it was enough despite two late tries for the Welshmen, granting them a bonus point via sloppy, paper thin Eagles defending. A shining light from the game included second row loanee Will Hope, who played really well and seems to be fitting into the Sheffield system of young players playing beyond their years. Hope’s performance even got him a place in the Kingstone Press Championship team of the week. Scott Turner added to his hat-trick at Leigh with a single against the Crusaders, and a welcome addition to the tryscoring sheet included Misi Taulapapa, who missed a glaring opportunity against the Centurions but his confidence didn’t look too tampered with. The game against Barrow is pivotal for the Eagles, a loss could see them enter the relegation zones with Whitehaven and Workington both on the same points, but a win for the South Yorkshire side could see them go to 5th, if results go exactly how they need to.
This Kingstone Press Championship encounter looks to be one of blood and thunder, with both teams looking for a win, which will hopefully instil some sort of momentum and confidence into both outfits for the coming weeks.