London Broncos moved back into the top two of the BetFred Championship on Sunday despite the performance of a battling Sheffield Eagles side.
Having beaten the visitors only seven days earlier by 66 points to 14 Broncos came into the game knowing that just a win would put them above their rivals Toulouse and Featherstone, in the table, on points difference.
The home side started brightly with Michael Channing forcing an early goal line dropout and Kieran Dixon going over the line but judged to have put a foot in touch. Then on 8 minutes, London gave away a penalty for holding down and Sheffield jumped on their opportunity by moving up to the hosts line and over for the try through Matthew Fozzard and against the run of play Sheffield found themselves ahead four points ti nil. Fozzard converted his own try and the home fans were decidedly quiet.
The Broncos problems got worse on 13 minutes when Will Lovell sustained an injury and was not to return for the rest of the afternoon. This was immediately followed by a tough tackle from former Bronco, Mark Offerdahl, on Daniel Hindmarsh and after taking time to get back to his feet also came off the field and was to be seen on crutches after the match.
The arm wrestle between the teams continued throughout the half until Matty Gee broke the line only to be stopped by a high tackle and was given the penalty. From the resulting play, with 30 minutes gone, winger Rhys Williams danced through the Sheffield defence and was over for the home sides first try of the day. Sammut converted and the scores were all square again.
The Williams try brought the game to life for both good and bad reasons as only 4 minutes later Alex Walker broke through but was stopped unfairly and from the penalty, the Broncos ran the ball and Mark Ioane crashed over the line. The conversion was missed but the hosts were ahead.
Two minutes later Cunningham broke from dummy half and was tackled but, in trying to play the ball quickly, was held down and the referee showed the yellow card to Matty Costello. London, having the numerical advantage made it pay as a great run from Matt Gee saw him go over for the try. Words were said by the Sheffield players at the try and another yellow was shown to Ryan Millar before the conversion had been taken.
London had opened a four-point gap and within two minutes the gap had widened to eight as Matt Gee went over again for his second of the half and with Sammut making the conversion the visitors found themselves 10 points and two men down at halftime.
The second half started as the first with another arm wrestle between the teams but on 46 minutes the Eagles went over through Oliver Davies and the 11 men were starting to believe again.
Play went back and forth until the 55th minute when tempers flared in centre field, between the teams, after some alleged foul play. Unfortunately for London, Welsh international, Ben Evans was, for the first time in his career, shown a straight red card for fighting and the hosts would be down to 12 for the rest of the game. There were more flare-ups in the next few plays but the referee calmed things down talking to both captains in the process.
The game was an even affair for the next 10 minutes until Cunningham, on 66 minutes broke the line passed inside to Walker who in turn gave it to Sammut who scored under the posts to give London some breathing space. The conversion was good and the home side had the gap back and this was made bigger with a penalty goal from Sammut on 71 minutes.
The Sheffield team had fought hard all game long but the floodgates opened for the Broncos from here with tries from Matt Davis, Kieran Dixon and a second from Rhys Williams all in the space of 19 minutes to give the home side the win and the place in the top two.
Sheffield Director of Rugby, Mark Aston said, “At 68 minutes we were still in the game but London has the talent to take a game away from you and that’s exactly what they did. I am immensely proud of my boys, however, considering how many teenagers we had out there today.”
Danny Ward, London Head Coach said, “We expected it to be a tough game today. They were always coming hard at us but I felt we were disrespectful and it is not good enough. We need to take a hard look at ourselves with Toulouse, at Summer Bash, now on the horizon. Losing two players early to injury did unsettle us but I will say that we were poor today.”
London Broncos travel to Blackpool to face the French side and will be looking to cement their place in the top two.
LONDON BRONCOS:- Alex Walker, Kieran Dixon, Will Lovell, Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams, Michael Channing, Jarrod Sammut, Tom Spencer, Matt Davis, Eddie Battye, Jay Pitts, Dan Hindmarsh, Sadiq Adebiyi. INTERCHANGE:- Matt Gee, Mark Ioane, James Cunningham, Ben Evans
Tries:- Williams (30, 80), Ioane ( 33), Gee (38,40), Sammut (66), Davis ( 74), Dixon ( 77)
Goals:- Sammut 6/8
Penalty Goal:- Sammut 1/1
Red Card:- Ben Evans
SHEFFIELD EAGLES:- Matthew Costello, Ryan Millar, Menzie Yere, Jake Spedding, Ben Blackmore, Corey Makelim, Thibault Franck, Mark Offerdahl, Matthew Fozard, Jon Magrin, Jack Ashworth, Shaun Pick, Patrick Burns. INTERCHANGE:- Illiess Macani, Oliver Davies, Kieran Moran, Maxime Garcia.
Tries:- Fozard (9), Davies (64)
Goals:- Fozard 2/2
Yellow Cards:- Matthew Costello, Ryan Millar