LONDON BRONCOS V BRADFORD BULLS (by David Ballheimer)
London Broncos (4) 10, Bradford Bulls (6) 12
London’s hopes of a home playoff game took a severe hit when they were beaten by the Bradford Bulls. In a defence-dominated game between two well-matched teams, the final score of 12–10 to the visitors was probably a fair reflection of the game, simply because Bradford made fewer handling errors and conceded fewer penalties in dangerous positions.
Heavy rain started falling 15 minutes before kick-off made the pitch slick and, as it intensified, both teams had problems handling the slippery ball. The result was that four of the first six possessions were lost. It should be said, however, most of the second half was played in blustery sunshine.
Not included in that last statistic is the moment Bradford thought they had scored in the fourth minute. Following a short, high kick from Lee Gaskell, the ball bounced between three Broncos and then fell into Iliess Macani’s hands. Ben Blackmore took him to ground and the stole the ball before crossing the line and touching down. His celebration was stilled by the referee awarding a penalty for a ball steal.
The Bulls did get the first score, however, in the 13th minute when London were caught offside coming off their tryline. There was a hint of controversy in the build-up as Dan Hoyes appeared to be hit high ten metres from the Broncos line and lost the ball – he left the game with a head injury and did not return. Three tackles into the Bradford possession, the offside decision was made and Jordan Lilley made no mistake with the kick from in front of the posts.
Three minutes later a promising Broncos move broke down with an errant pass towards the left wing. Blackmore gathered it and his pass sent Jayden Myers on a 70-metre run to the line. Lilley was wide with the conversion.
The continuing difficult conditions certainly didn’t help the quality of the game, or the ball handling by both teams and the Broncos profited from a Bradford lost ball after 25 minutes. On the penultimate play, Alex Walker spotted a gap in the defensive line so grubbered into the in-goal area where Henry Raiwalui was fastest to the ball and he touched down before sliding into the advertising boards. Corey Norman’s conversion was wide of the far upright.
Bradford started the second half much as they had the first and this time their early pressure led to a second try for Myers, who burst through a tackle and touched down near right touchline. Once more, the angle was too much for Lilley to improve the score.
London had two excellent chances to hit back with a second score, but Macani was bundled into touch by Myers, who injured himself in the tackle, and then was stopped inside the field of play. Crucially, an errant London pass was picked up by the Bulls and a penalty soon followed, close enough for Lilley to slot the ball between the uprights to stretch lead to 12–4.
Changes for both teams came and went but, with 10 minutes to go, the Broncos finally took advantage of a chance that came their way. Walker started it with a 25-metre run after collecting a kick and getting a repeat set into the bargain. He was at the other end of it, too, scampering through a gap. After being half-tackled, he stretched over the line and Norman’s conversion made it a two-point game.
However, hopes of a dramatic comeback died when two more passes failed to find black shirts and gave the Bulls possession near to London’s line. The last chance ended with a dropped ball that ensured the last possession belonged to the Bulls.
Broncos: 1 Alex Walker, 4 Dalton Grant, 3 Jarred Bassett, 23 Dan Hoyes, 5 Iliess Macani, 17 Henry Raiwalui, 20 Corey Norman, 33 Rob Butler, 9 Sam Davis, 8 Wellington Albert, 11 Will Lovell, 16 Ethan Natoli, 13 Dean Parata. Subs: 6 Oli Leyland, 10 Jordan Williams, 12 Marcus Stock, 14 Bill Leyland. 18th man: 18 Emmanuel Waine.
Tries: Raiwalui (27), Walker (70)
Goals: Norman 1/2
Bulls: 1 Tom Holmes, 2 Ben Blackmore, 30 Jayden Myers, 4 Kieran Gill, 38 Liam Tindall, 29 Lee Gaskell, 7 Jordan Lilley, 10 Michael Lawrence, 20 Billy Jowitt, 41 Eribe Doro, 12 Chester Butler, 3 Joe Arundel, 37 Jason Baitieri. Replacements: 9 George Flanagan Sr, 14 Ebon Scurr, 18 Keven Appo, 21 Fenton Rogers. 18th man: 15 AJ Wallace.
Tries: Myers (16, 44)
Goals: Lilley 2/4
Referee: Liam Rush
Penalties awarded: 5–9