It was a disappointing afternoon in sunny west Yorkshire for the Broncos, going down to a hungrier Batley Bulldogs, 31-20.
London were always in the game, (particularly after Hellewell scored the opening try of the second half) but seemed to struggle to find the motivation or cohesiveness to pull it all together.
Both sides started the game strongly – a big defensive effort from the Broncos saw Hirst held up twice inside the opening four minutes. Only a minute later, Bretherton thought he was over for the opening score, but pressure got the better of him and he knocked on over the line.
London were first to get on the score board – Soward kicked for the corner, and Kear beat Ainscough to the punch to touch down. Soward couldn’t convert.
Ten minutes later, Ulugia found a break on the wing, and a lovely pass to Ainscough put him over to tie the scores. Walker also failed to convert.
London were placed on a team warning for conceding too many penalties, and Batley really turned it on from there – Squires beautifully collected a Brambani ball midair to score, and Walker added the extras.
Shortly before half time, Macani mistimed his collection of a ball from Brambani, and Ainscough fell on the ball for his brace, and a 14-4 lead for Batley at the interval.
Ben Hellewell looked to be turning things around for the visiting side after half time, finding a break down the wing and easily crossing in the corner, but the Bulldogs answered minutes later through Reittie on the back of a brilliant team attacking effort.
Two tries followed for each team – Brambani crossed for the home side, and Gledhill powered through London’s defence and extended his arm over the line to score.
Pewhairangi danced his way around the Bulldogs’ defence to begin to close the gap, and Offerdahl found himself over the line with 12 minutes to go. Soward converted both, and the difference was ten points with ten minutes remaining.
London came close to another – Hellewell was stopped by Ainscough on the last tackle, before a Brambani drop goal with two minutes to go rounded out the day’s proceedings.
Head coach, Andrew Henderson, was disappointed with his side, saying that standards needed to be lifted ahead of a tough clash with Halifax.
“Full credit to Batley, fully deserved – they played low risk percentage football, earning them field position, which they capitalised on. We, on the other hand, didn’t execute well enough with the ball, and our overall discipline was poor, highlighted by a heavy penalty count against us.
“Our effort was a lot better this week and we were always in the game, but we gave ourselves too much to do through missed opportunities, lack of respect for possession and ill discipline.
“These last two games we haven’t played well enough at the standards we set of each other in this team, and the players motivation needs to be questioned. Individually, players need to ensure that they’re doing their roles to the best of their ability for the greater good of the team. Too many aren’t being consistent enough. What we have to realise is that we need to be playing well together, as a team, going into the 8s – regardless of our current position in the league.
“Securing top two has been a fantastic achievement by this team considering where we were last year, however, that’s gone now, and we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to fix the small things in our game and change our mentality leading into Halifax this week. It’s all about improving performance to gain confidence and build belief.”
London Broncos: Alex Walker, Rhys Williams, Ben Hellewell, Elliot Kear, Iliess Macani, Api Pewhairangi, Jamie Soward, Nick Slyney, Andy Ackers, Jamie Thackray, Jack Bussey, Matt Garside, Mark Offerdahl
Interchange: James Cunningham, Jon Magrin, Mark Ioane, Eddie Battye
Tries: Kear (18), Hellewell (43), Pewhairangi (55), Offerdahl (68)
Goals: Soward 2/4
Batley Bulldogs: Dave Scott, Wayne Reittie, Shaun Squires, Chris Ulugia, Shaun Ainscough, Pat Walker, Dom Brambani, Keegan Hirst, Alistair Leak, Alex Rowe, Brad Day, Alex Bretherton, Adam Gledhill
Interchange: James Davey, Tom Lillycrop, James Brown, James Harrison
Tries: Ainscough (28, 38), Squires (33), Reittie (47), Brambani (48), Gledhill (61)
Goals: Walker 3/6
Drop Goal: Walker (1)