BY now, Barrow Raiders are probably sick of the sight of Cory Aston.

The live-wire stand-off proved one of the chief architects of Raiders’ downfall against Sheffield Eagles at the Summer Bash in Blackpool, and it was a similar story in yesterday’s crucial Betfred Championship clash at the Olympic Legacy Park.

Aston ran in two tries and kicked four conversions, along with dictating things from the halves all afternoon for the hosts, in much the same way his father, Sheffield head coach Mark, used to during his playing days.

That helped the hosts secure a 28-10 win to move above Barrow in the standings heading into the final round of regular-season matches this weekend, with the visitors no doubt being left to rue some costly errors.

There were, however, mitigating circumstances – not least because the injury curse which seems to be afflicting the squad shows no sign of going away.

Worst affected was full-back Ryan Fieldhouse, who tore his ankle ligaments in the second half and is set to be out for an unspecified period of time. Dan Toal had to go off injured again too, while Glenn Riley picked up a knock which ended his participation as well.

Even Jonny Pownall had to climb off his sick bed to play a role off the interchange bench, with the sweltering heat in South Yorkshire taking its toll on head coach Paul Crarey’s ever-stretched resources.

Not to mention that once again several players were having to line up out of position, although Crarey was at least able to field two new loan recruits in French duo Arnaud Bartes – who quickly endeared himself to the Raiders faithful with a robust showing at prop – and Georgy Gambaro.

Another player is set to be joining on loan from the Catalans Dragons this week as well, and with Liam Harrison and Jarrad Stack both possible returnees for this Sunday’s visit of London Broncos, it does seem as if those injury woes are – slowly – starting to ease.

Back to yesterday though and even with all of those issues affecting the squad, Raiders showed plenty of signs of still being able to match it with the teams around them in the division.

The difference was though, that when the away side made an error, Sheffield were ruthless and that was evidenced on nine minutes when the Eagles worked a move for a penalty to send ex-Raider Matty James over for a converted try having had less of the territory in some cagey opening exchanges.

By contrast, Barrow were unable to make the most of their opportunities, one of those seeing Alec Susino – playing at loose forward – held up under the posts after a smart kick from Ryan Johnston had forced a drop-out.

But Sheffield quickly turned defence into attack and another penalty led to Ben Blackmore grabbing an unconverted score out wide after Sheffield had worked an overload on the right wing to put the them 10 points up after 17 minutes.

Again, Barrow fought back, and when Riley and Ryan Duffy were held up it seemed as if the Eagles defence might not be breached. However, it finally was when, three minutes before half-time, scrum-half Johnston dinked in a deft grubber behind the defence for Brett Carter to race in and dot down for an unconverted try.

Trailing by six points at the break, Raiders found themselves 12 down barely 40 seconds after the restart when Aston ripped the ball in a one-on-one tackle with Matty Holmes and sprinted in from halfway for a converted score.

Barrow narrowed the deficit through Nathan Mossop’s try and Dallimore’s conversion on 56 minutes, but errors caused by fatigue started to creep in and Aston got his second in the 62nd minute, squaring up and racing in from 20 metres.

The Raiders were undaunted though and pushed right to the end, yet could not find another way through despite forcing two consecutive goal-line drop-outs.

And on the final play of the game, long-serving centre Menzie Yere forced his way over for a converted try to add a little bit more gloss to Sheffield’s final tally.


Sheffield Eagles: Matty Costello; Iliess Macani, Menzie Yere, Josh Toole, Ben Blackmore; Cory Aston, Corey Makelim; Mark Offerdahl, Matty Fozard, Shaun Pick, James Bentley, Matty James, Paddy Burns. Interchange: Greg Burns, Max Garcia, Mike Weldon, Jon Magrin.

Barrow Raiders: Ryan Fieldhouse 6; Georgy Gambaro 6, Ryan Burroughs 7, Tom Loxam 6, Brett Carter 7; Jamie Dallimore 7, Ryan Johnston 8; Joe Bullock 7, Nathan Mossop 7, Arnaud Barthes 7, Matty Holmes 6, Dan Toal 6, Alec Susino 7. Interchange: Dean Parata 7, Ryan Duffy 7, Glenn Riley 7, Jonny Pownall 7.

Referee: Nick Bennett.


NINE MINUTES: James try, Aston conversion, 6-0.

17 MINUTES: Blackmore try, 10-0.

37 MINUTES: Carter try, 10-4.

41 MINUTES: Aston try and conversion, 16-4.

56 MINUTES: Mossop try, Dallimore conversion, 16-10.

62 MINUTES: Aston try and conversion, 22-10.

80 MINUTES: Yere try, Aston conversion, 28-10.


Ryan Johnston: His intelligent kicking game asked plenty of searching questions of Sheffield and he was a constant danger with the ball in hand as well.