Sheffield 48 Whitehaven 16: It proved to be another tough afternoon for struggling Whitehaven after a second-half capitulation against Sheffield Eagles saw James Coyle’s side move a step closer to League One.

After leading at the break, Haven spurned a golden opportunity to breathe some much-needed life into their fight for Championship survival, conceding six second-half tries as an unforgiving Eagles condemned the visitors to their eighth straight defeat.

There was no sign of the ensuing 48-16 scoreline at the interval, with Haven deservedly in front. But a lacklustre second half sent Coyle’s side crashing to defeat, knowing there is now no margin for error if they are to carry out a great escape.

The visitors belied the form-guide in the first-half, and stunned the hosts with two tries in the opening 16 minutes. Anthony Walker scythed his way through the Sheffield defence before his pass on the inside was finished by Liam Carberry, and Louis Jouffret kicked the extras.

Coyle’s strugglers took further advantage of a slow start by the Eagles, with Steve Fox starting and finishing a raid down the left for Haven’s second score. Jouffret pushed his conversion attempt wide.

The visitors looked likely to extend their advantage further, but suffered a setback at the other end when Elliot Minchella’s converted try brought Sheffield back into the contest.

The first signs of Haven unravelling started when Ryan Duffy was lost to injury on 24 minutes, while Ugo Perez was also forced off temporarily after a blow to the face.

Despite the injury problems, Whitehaven still carried the greater threat and were unfortunate when Cory Aston’s deflected kick fell kindly for the home side, who profited with a converted try for Quentin Laulu-Togagae.

Right on the half-time hooter, Whitehaven re-took the lead after a brilliant spinning offload to Grant Gore saw the half-back dive over under the sticks, allowing Jouffret a simple conversion.

That was as good as it got for Haven who set to the tone for the second half by conceding almost straight away to a Matty Fozard try, which was converted by Aston.

The visitors lost their shape, and their fragile confidence took a further dent as Sheffield began to quicken the pace. Laulu-Togagae ran in his second try on 50 minutes as the Haven defence began to show signs of strain.

Just past the hour mark Sheffield skipper Steve Thorpe took advantage of more generous defending for another easy run-in, while Aston again kicked the extras to rub more salt into Haven wounds.

After losing Dion Aiye to a head injury, Coyle was forced to re-shuffle his patched up side, while the Eagles now looked every inch the side that convincingly dispatched Halifax at The Shay the previous week.

The closest the visitors came to some points in the second half came when Ted Chapelhow was held on the line by some spirited Sheffield defence when he looked odds on for a try.

The home side added further gloss the scoreline with a second try for Minchella followed by a Nathan Chappell score, both were successfully converted.

A tiring Haven couldn’t prevent further damage as Sheffield capped a terrific second-half performance when Laulu-Togagae secured his hat-trick with the last play of the game. Michael Knowles this time kicked the extras to leave Haven knowing only a miracle can now save them from the dreaded drop ahead of next weekend’s Cumbrian derby.

Sheffield: Laulu-Togagae; Lo, Yere, Chappell, Worrincy; Aston, Robin; Thorpe, Carlile, Wheeldon; James, Straugheir; Margalet. Interchange: Neal, Knowles, Fozard, Minchella.

Tries: Minchella (21, 70), Laulu-Togagae (32, 50, 80), Fozard (43), Thorpe (61), Chappell (73); Goals: Aston 7, Knowles 1

Whitehaven: Jouffret; Burns, Taylor, Perez, Holliday; Aiye, Gore; Walker, Coyle, Chapelhow; Allen, Forster; Carberry. Interchange: Newton, Davies, Duffy, Fox.

Tries: Carberry (14), Fox (16), Gore (40) Goals: Jouffret 2

Referee: Jack Smith

Attendance: 412