It wasn’t London’s best outing of the season, but the Broncos managed to down Sheffield at Summer Bash for the second year in a row.
The game got off to a very slow start – delayed nearly an hour after the Eagles found themselves caught in bad traffic due to an earlier accident – and it never particularly picked up the pace.
Playing in Jamie Thackray’s testimonial jersey, Rhys Williams opened the scoring, after plucking a kick from Scott Leatherbarrow high out of the air, to touch down for the first of the afternoon.
London looked set to continue scoring when Garside muscled his way across only moments later, but the try was disallowed by the video referee. A tale of matched fortunes, Sheffield thought they’d scored a minute later, only to also be disallowed.
QLT was determined not to let an opportunity pass, and forced his way over in the corner. Aston missed his opening conversion attempt, and the score sat at four a piece 10 minutes in.
Aston added another six for the Eagles shortly after – crossing in the corner and then converting his own try.
London continued to throw their best at Sheffield’s defence, but were struggling to get over the final five metres, until Nick Slyney picked up a loose Eagles recovery to go over the white wash.
A kick from Man of the Match, Scott Leatherbarrow, rebounded off an Eagle, allowing the Broncos a fresh set 10 metres out from Sheffield’s line, but a handling error saw the side from the capital lose possession to Sheffield.
The Eagles seemed to be finding their rhythm with the ball, but severe pressure from the Broncos’ defence forced yet another handling error. London capitalised, scoring a magnificent try. Magic footwork from Rhys Williams and a quick offload to Garside saw the Yorkshireman barge over in the corner, extending London’s lead to 10-14.
London seemed to find their momentum in the following minutes, and Alex Foster danced his way through three Sheffield tacklers to go across shortly before the half time whistle.
Five minutes into the second 40 London looked to be across again, but James Cunningham found himself held up over the line. The fans didn’t have to wait too long for another score- Jack Bussey found a break in Sheffield’s line, making impressive territory before a quick offload to Mark Offerdahl allowed him to cross directly under the posts. Naiqama slotted his third through the posts, and London’s lead extended to 16 points.
Quick feet and a subsequent converted try from Eddie Battye took the Broncos to the 32 point mark, and the score looked set to extend further, but a second from Rhys Williams was disallowed by the video referee.
With eight minutes remaining, a good pass to Sheffield’s Rob Worrincy saw him run 80 metres – meeting Rhys Williams in a tackle at the final moments – but managing to slide across the line to add an extra four for the Eagles.
Speaking post-match, head coach, Andrew Henderson, acknowledged his side had not performed at their best today, but were lucky enough to still come away with the result.
“You’re not going to be top four week in, week out – you challenge the players to produce good performances and today we were a little bit under par but we got away with it. We’re going to make sure we’re a lot better than we were today next week if we’re going to get the result.
“I didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves at the start of the year. It was all about being better than last year and targeting a top four finish. That still is the goal.
“We know there’s a long way to go and we won’t get carried away. I’m pleasantly surprised to be where we are, but it’s not through fluke. We deserve to be there, we’ve earned the right to be second at the moment.
“We’ve played some really good rugby league football this year, and we’ve really come together as a team and as a group and we’ve worked extremely hard – both in the pre-season and during the season – to maintain standards and deliver performances. So far we’re ticking most of those boxes most weeks.”
London Broncos: Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams, Ben Hellewell, Alex Foster, Wes Naiqama, Api Pewhairangi, Scot Leatherbarrow, Nick Slyney, Andy Ackers, Eddie Battye, Daniel Harrison, Matt Garside, Jack Bussey
Interchange: James Cunningham, Jon Magrin, Mark Ioane, Mark Offerdahl
Tries: Williams (5), Slyney (21), Garside (29), Foster (38), Offerdahl (51), Battye (59)
Goals: Naiqama 4/6
Sheffield Eagles: Quentin Laulu-Togagae, Garry Lo, Menzie Yere, Ben Blackmore, Rob Worrincy, Cory Aston, Rhys Jacks, Scott Wheeldon, Keal Carlile, Adam Neal, Michael Knowles, George Tyson, Matty Fozard
Interchange: Matt James, Jack Blagbrough, Elliot Minchella, Mark Mexico
Tries: Laulu-Togagae (9), Aston (10), Worrincy (74)
Goals: Aston 1/3