Doncaster RLFC hope to clip Sheffield Eagles' wings in cup clash

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Doncaster RLFC will not lack incentive in their second and final AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Group 7 game against derby rivals Sheffield Eagles at the Eco-Power Stadium on Sunday.

With only the group winners and the best runner-up making it to the knock-out stages, the Dons will book their place in the knock-out stages if they clip Eagles’ wings.

Having beaten Betfred League One side Midlands Hurricanes 40-4 at the Alexander Stadium on Sunday on a day when Eagles made hard work of beating an inexperienced Hull KR side 26-24 at Craven Park in their final warm-up game, the Dons are currently in pole position.

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Although the Dons have another chance to play at Wembley Stadium for the first time in their history in the Betfred Challenge Cup, the restructured 1895 Cup, restricted to just Championship and League One clubs, offers them their best chance of doing so.

Picture: Rob TerracePicture: Rob Terrace
Picture: Rob Terrace

That was even more the case after the Dons were drawn away to Championship rivals and former Cup winners Widnes Vikings in the third round draw on Monday night with the winners facing a likely game against Bradford at Odsal Stadium in the fourth round.

The first of two games between the two sides at the Eco-Power Stadium in the coming weeks – they meet again in what will be the first league game between them in eight years – Sunday’s encounter will be the first meeting of the two clubs since they met in the 1895 Cup quarter-final of the inaugural competition back in 2019 in a game played at the home of Featherstone Rovers due to the Keepmoat Stadium being unavailable.

The Dons led 16-12 at half time and extended their lead in the second half and looked all set to make the last four, but Eagles staged a remarkable recovery and posted a 32-28 win in a tie in which they were second-best for long periods.

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Eagles went on to triumph in the semi-finals prior to beating Widnes in the final at Wembley Stadium after the 2019 Challenge Cup final.

Centre Jason Tali is likely to be the only Dons player who played that day to be involved in Sunday’s game although several of the successful Eagles side are likely to feature in Mark Aston’s squad.

Several of the current Doncaster squad have played for the Eagles prior to linking up with the Dons including full-back Josh Guzdek, hooker Greg Burns, forward Brad Knowles and veteran utility-back Misi Taulapapa.

Despite their fierce rivalry on the field, the two South Yorkshire clubs enjoy a close relationship off it and Eagles have always played a number of games at the stadium during the years when they were homeless.