London Broncos (18) 50, Newcastle Thunder (18) 30
Match report by David Ballheimer
London Broncos stretched their unbeaten run to three matches as they eventually defeated a plucky Newcastle Thunder team which lost three players to injury in the first 45 minutes. Not only that, poor discipline meant London twice had to play with 12 men after sin-binnings.
Mistakes were the order of the day in the first half and it took only two minutes for Newcastle to profit from a London dropped ball, Kieran Gill scooping up the loose ball before crossing the line. Josh Woods added the conversion and it was 6–0.
Both teams then kicked long to keep possession, Newcastle’s Woods a 20-40 and London’s Jarrod Sammut a 40-20, but nothing came from the scoring opportunities because of balls lost early in the tackle count.
However, London did draw level after eight minutes, when Matt Fozzard sneaked over from dummy half. When play resumed, prop Ted Chapelhow had left the game with a rib injury, and he was replaced by his brother Jay.
Woods was at the centre of the next couple of incidents. First he was flattened late after another high kick. From this penalty, he grubbered towards the goalline where Rhys Curran intervened illegally, stopping a runner. For this the second-rower was sent to the sin bin.
Newcastle were clinical in punishing more mistakes. In the 18th minute, Connor Wrench caught a long pass deflected by an attempted Broncos interception and strolled over the try-line.
Four minutes later, former London Skolar Evan Simons took advantage of a London knock-on on their own 20, scoring three tackles into the red zone possession. Woods added his second and third conversions to give Newcastle an 18–6 lead.
London finally cut out their errors the pressure they exerted on the Newcastle defence saw that they were level at half-time. After 33 minutes, Chris Hankinson, who would go on to make all eight of his kicks, chased a well-judged Sammut bomb, leapt highest in the in-goal area, caught the ball and dotted it down.
Four minutes later, Abbas Miski ran onto a good pass from Curran to continue his good scoring run and he improved the angle for Hankinson.
Newcastle’s afternoon quickly got worse. Woods did not reappear for the second half and as Newcastle readjusted, Sammut and Leyland combined to set up Gideon Boafo, who also galloped close to the posts untouched from the corner flag.
Three tackles into London’s next set, play was halted as Simons received treatment. He, too, was unable to continue and Thunder were forced to play a few players out of position.
Titus Gwaze had made a big difference coming off the bench and three times in less than five minutes, the only way Newcastle found to stop him was with illegal high shots. From the last of them, Hankinson kicked a routine goal while the visitors were given a warning about their tackling, but kept 13 on the field.
Sammut was now running the game using both his hands and his feet. After 52 minutes, he threw a long pass out to the right wing and it allowed Boafo to complete his double.
In the 56th minute, Gwaze, frustrated that none of his three assailants had been sin-binned, then made a high tackle of his own and looked shocked to get 10 minutes on the naughty chair.
With a man advantage Newcastle were able to score a fourth try, this one after 63 minutes. After a good break, the possession was finished off by Sam Wilde from close range. Jake Shorrocks took on the kicking duties and he improved the score.
Thunder had to score next if they were going to get back into the game. Instead, Sammut made a clean break and prop forward Greg Richards was in support to score from 10 metres out. With Hankinson off the pitch, Sammut took over kicking duties.
Sammut did it all himself for the next try, eight minutes from the final hooter. He ran into space, chipped over the top, gathered the ball and scored beside the posts. Hankinson, back on the pitch, resumed kicking duties.
In a frantic final few minutes, Gill completed his double after a good run from Connor Bailey and pass from Sam Wilde which brought up the Newcastle 30.
But the last word belonged to Miski who picked up a loose ball and scooted 60 metres behind the uprights.
22 Oli Leyland, 17 Abbas Miski, 3 Chris Hankinson, 4 Will Lovell, 20 Gideon Boafo, 1 James Meadows, 7 Jarrod Sammut, 16 Dan Hindmarsh, 9 Matty Fozzard, 10 Greg Richards, 12 Rhys Curran, 25 Jacob Jones, 13 Josh Walters.
Subs:14 Sam Davis, 18 Jordan Williams, 19 Jacob Ogden, 28 Titus Gwaze.
Tries: Fozzard (8) Hankinson (33), Miski (37, 80), Boafo (43, 52), Richards (66), Sammut (72).
Goals: Hankinson 8/8, Sammut 1/1
Sinbin: Curran (17) – late hit, Gwaze (56) – high tackle
1 Lewis Young, 18 Alex Clegg , 5 Connor Wrench, 4 Kieran Gill, 28 Cian Tyrer, 7 Josh Woods, 6 Jake Shorrocks, 15 Ted Chapelhow, 9 Bob Beswick, 10 Mikey Wood, 17 Connor Bailey, 12 Sam Wilde, 8 Nathan Wilde.
Subs: 13 Ellis Longstaff, 14 Evan Simons, 16 Jay Chapelhow, 20 Cole Oakley.
Tries: Gill (2, 75), Wrench (18), Simons (22), Shorrocks (63).
Goals: Woods 3/3, Shorrocks 2/2.
Penalty count: 7-6
Referee: Jack Smith