London Broncos travelled to Featherstone Rovers and the LD Nutrition for their biggest game of the season to date.
The visitors had a five-game unbeaten run behind them, following the defeat of Halifax RLFC, the Broncos knew that it was almost a winner takes all situation with defeat, not an option if they were to carry their top four ambitions into the last game of the regular season.
The first half was a war of attrition with both sides feeling each other out. The defences of both sides were on top throughout the opening exchanges and the half continued in the same way until 19 minutes when Rhys Williams looked to be in in the corner but was taken into touch.
Thirty-one minutes were gone and Featherstone were handed the perfect chance to open the scoring but fullback, Ian Hardman missed a kick in front of the posts and it stayed 0 – 0. Only four minutes later and the Featherstone stand-off, Anthony Thackaray, was over the line but more great defence from the Broncos saw them hold him up over the line. Featherstone were really pressurising the Broncos line and two minutes later a high ball went up and much to the amusement of the home fans Dixon knocked on. From the resulting play on loan Aaron Smith danced through the line and was over under the posts. Featherstone had opened the scoring and with Hardman kicking the extras led by 6 – 0.
The clock was ticking down to the halftime hooter when Hardman decided to go for the one point and the lead at the break was seven and the Broncos would need to come from behind to win a very tight encounter.
The pattern of the game continued at the start of the second half with both teams completing their sets until on 49 minutes Featherstone pushed up to the Broncos line and were one pass away from going over when Kieran Dixon snapped up an interception and left the hosts defence in his wake as he ran the length of the pitch to touch down beside the posts. He could not convert his own try but the Broncos were on the scoreboard and not yet out of the game.
58 minutes gone and more Featherstone pressure forced a goal-line dropout as Walker was pushed out. The kick from Dixon flew into the home team’s half, over the head of Misi Taulapapa, bounced inside the touchline and out into touch. London were now on the front foot and 2 sets later, on 64 minutes, the ball went through the hands across the field and Alex Walker dodged a tackle and was over for another Broncos try. Dixon again missed the kick from a difficult angle and the Broncos led 7 – 8.
The visitors were now on top and within four minutes the Broncos had scored again. The ball made its way to Jarrod Sammut and the half-back danced his way through and over to send the visiting fans into a frenzy. Sammut converted his own kick and the gap had widened to seven.
Featherstone continued to try and make their way back into the game but without any luck and to compound their misery on 77 minutes Gareth Hock was adjudged to have knocked on on the Broncos line and in disagreeing with the referee saw a yellow card.
Broncos managed the game to perfection and on the final hooter with both teams spent the Broncos had won at Featherstone Rovers for the first time since 2015.
With one game left to play London can still finish in second place but will concentrate on cementing their position with trying to get the victory next week away at Barrow Raiders.
Head Coach, Danny Ward, summed it up, ” The job is not yet done. There will be more twists and turns to come in what I think has been the most exciting Championship season I can remember.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS: Hardman, Taulapapa, Hardcastle, Walton, Robinson, Thackeray, Carlile, Wheeldon, Davies, Cooper, Lockwood, Smith, Hock. Substitutes: Moore, Smith, Walters, Brooks.
TRIES: A. Smith (38)
GOALS: Hardman (1/2).
DROP-GOALS: Hardman (1/1).
LONDON BRONCOS: Walker, Dixon, Hellewell, Kear, Williams, Pewhairangi, Cunningham, Battye, Pelissier, Evans, Pitts, Hindmarsh, Davis. Substitutes: Spencer, Ioane, Harrison, Sammut.
TRIES: Dixon (49), Walker (64), Sammut (68).
GOALS: Dixon (0/2), Sammut (1/1)