It was a brilliant return to winning ways for the London Broncos at MBi Shay on Sunday afternoon, downing Halifax 22-41.
After suffering defeats to Batley Bulldogs and Sheffield Eagles in their last two outings, London were looking for a return to form, and to gain momentum ahead of the Qualifiers commencing.
An important game for both sides, the match got off to a tense start – Israel Eliab almost gave the visiting side the first score, but Gareth Moore ensured the PNG International was held up on the last tackle.
Fax gained momentum, and Scott Murrell broke away (eluding two defenders in the process), before passing to Fairbank and subsequently Johnson, who crossed for a length of the field score. Moore added the two from right underneath the uprights.
London retaliated shortly after, when a brilliant dash from Nick Slyney eventuated in birthday boy, Eddie Battye, barging over the whitewash underneath, and Soward added the extras.
With level scores, the pressure mounted. The Broncos managed to hold Fax up over the line twice in as many minutes – Kaye was held up on the last tackle, and possession returned to London.
The Broncos capitalised – Andy Ackers spotted a break in Fax’s line, and didn’t waste any time in offloading to Battye, who went over right underneath for his brace. Soward duly converted, and the visitors took the lead.
With three minutes remaining until half time, a neat pass from Soward to Garside saw the latter cross in fine form, evading a Ben Heaton tackle to muscle his way over.
Garside’s night ended less than five minutes into the second half, when a concussion forced him to leave the field, to be replaced by Slyney.
The team’s momentum didn’t falter, and a brilliant offload under pressure from Kear to Soward enabled the former Panther to go over for his first in London colours since returning to the UK. Dusting himself off, he then converted his own try.
Shortly after, #33 was sent to the bin for a high tackle on Heaton. Initially, the extra man proved the difference for Fax – Will Sharp crossed in the corner, and Ed Barber scored a brace within three minutes. Moore missed only one of the conversions, and suddenly the difference was only two points.
The Broncos never quite lost their heads, and regaining composure, Mark Ioane muscled his way over from close range to score whilst still a man down. Pewhairangi took over the kicking duties, and successfully added the two.
On the 67 minute mark, Will Sharp looked to be across for his brace, but the try was disallowed for a prior forward pass.
London ran away with it from there – Soward added a drop goal, and true to form, Nick Slyney crossed in an impressive manner in his 50th appearance for the Broncos. Soward’s kick was good.
With four seconds remaining on the clock, academy captain, Sid Adebiyi, added another four points directly under the uprights, and Soward’s additional two on the hooter meant a 22-41 victory for the visitors.
Head coach, Andrew Henderson, was pleased that his players had regained their usual form, particularly commending Slyney: “Fantastic response from all the players in producing a strong team performance. Our middle unit need a special mention as they really came to the forefront today, Nick Slyney was immense in his 50th game, and was well supported by Mark Ioane and Eddie Battye.
“We controlled the game well for large parts, thanks to our pivots; Soward, Pewhairangi, Ackers and Cunningham. However, we faced some adversity when we lost Garside to injury to injury, and Soward to the sin bin.
“Halifax gained some momentum and fancied it, but our true strength in character came through. We showed that commitment to each other, defensive steel and resilience that we’ve seen so often this season.
“We didn’t panic, stayed composed, and had the trust in each other that we would finish strong and find a way to win the game.
“I’m really pleased that we finished the Championship season on a high, and a special mention to our kids, Adebiyi and Bustin, who contributed well today.
“Everybody at the club – players, staff and fans – is excited about what’s coming in the Qualifiers. We deserve the opportunity to gain promotion back to Super League, and will certainly be putting all our efforts into achieving that.”
London Broncos: Alex Walker, Rhys Williams, Elliot Kear, Israel Eliab, Iliess Macani, Api Pewhairangi, Jamie Soward, Mark Ioane, Andy Ackers, Callum Bustin, Daniel Harrison, Matt Garside, Nick Slyney
Interchange: James Cunningham, Eddie Battye, Jon Magrin, Sadiq Adebiyi
Tries: Battye (18, 27), Garside (37), Soward (44), Ioane (62), Slyney (73), Adebiyi (79)
Goals: Soward 5/6, Pewhairangi 1/1
Drop Goal: Soward
Halifax: Ben Johnston, Will Sharp, Ben Heaton, Jake Eccleston, James Saltonstall, Gareth Moore, Scott Murrell, Mitch Cahalane, Connor Robinson, Luke Ambler, Ed Barber, Adam Tangata, Jacob Fairbank
Interchange: Ben Kaye, Richard Moore, Gavin Bennion, Ryan Boyle
Tries: Johnstone (10), Sharp (53), Barber (56, 59)
Goals: Moore 3/4