Sheffield Eagles produced one of their best performances of the season in beating the London Broncos. It boosts the Eagles’ hopes of avoiding the drop while, the Broncos had consolation of a guaranteed second-place finish thanks to defeats for Halifax and Batley.
London actually started well and took the lead in the seventh minute when Menzie Yere lost the ball near the London and Wes Naiqama returned the fumble 65 metres.
From the next tackle the ball went left and Scott Leatherbarrow and Ben Hellewell combined to send Rhys Williams over in the corner.
Matt Garside was denied a try when he was ruled held up and it led to a complete turnaround in the game.
The next 26 points all went Sheffield’s way as they took complete control. In the 16th minute, the Broncos conceded a scrum and then a penalty to set up the Eagles in great field position.
Cory Aston threw the key pass, disguising it beautifully, for Matt James to run into a huge gap before touching down.
Twelve minutes later, Quentin Laulu-Togagae made a powerful break down the middle. He drew in Elliot Kear and timed the pass perfectly to send Matty Fozzard between the posts.
Four minutes from the interval, a grubber by Aston was muffed by two Broncos and Stan Robin picked up the loose before before diving between the uprights. Aston’s conversion made it 18–4.
Both teams could have scored after the half-time hooter. First Mark Mexico picked up a bouncing ball and made good yards before, trying the keep the ball alive, letting it fall into London hands.
The Broncos quickly created a three-on-one on the right wing, but Israel Eliab cut inside rather than passing to Naiqama and the move died.
Three minutes into the second half, Ben Blackmore put a foot in touch before he dived spectacularly into the in-goal area.
Another attack down the Sheffield right brought rewards when Dane Straugheir made a break and Laulu-Togagae was at his shoulder to receive the scoring pass.
Laulu-Togagae played a big part in the next try. He took advantage of a poorly-directed and overhit kick from Leatherbarrow to make a 60 metre break downfield. Three tackles later, Yere burst over.
The Broncos finally got back on the scoreboard when the Eagles knocked on in defence 15 metres from their own line. The ball was spun out and Israel Eliab exploited a gap to touch down.
The restart by Aston was high, short and right into the sun, which probably explains Kear’s knock-on. Two tackles later, Straugheir strode over and Aston added his fourth goal.
When Andy Ackers went over from dummy half and Naiqama got his first conversion of the afternoon, it was far too little and far too late.
London coach Andrew Henderson said, “It was a clearly an attitude problem. We have worked hard to get a to a top-two finish, but the manner of our performance was easily the worst of the season.
“We were good for the first 15 minutes but once Sheffield scored, everything went out of the window. They wanted it more than we did.”
Sheffield coach Mark Aston said, “We have been very good in two of our last three games. It is a bit satisfying to see what he can do.
“Individuals haven’t been hitting their straps for a large part of the season, but we have started to do so. It has been a hard transition going to full-time and there have been times when we had only the 17 available, but now there is competition for places.”
LONDON BRONCOS: 32 Elliot Kear, 2 Rhys Williams, 1 Ben Hellewell, 6 Israel Eliab, 4 Wes Naiqama, 26 Api Pewhairangi, 20 Scott Leatherbarrow, 18 Jamie Thackray, 14 Andy Ackers, 10 Eddie Battye, 11 Daniel Harrison, 12 Matt Garside, 15 Jack Bussey
Interchange: 8 Nick Slyney, 9 James Cunningham, 16 Mark Ioane, 23 Jon Magrin
Tries: Williams (7), Eliab (65), Ackers (79)
SHEFFIELD EAGLES: 1 Quentin Laulu-Tongagae, 19 Garry Lo, 3 Menzie Yere, 25 Nathan Chappell, 5 Ben Blackmore, 6 Cory Aston, 26 Stan Robin, 8 Steve Thorpe, 9 Keal Carlile, 15 Scott Wheeldon, 13 Matt James, 12 Duane Straugheir, 27 Thibault Margalet
Interchange: 11 Mike Knowles, 14 Matty Fozzard, 16 Adam Neal, 17 Mark Mexico
Tries: James (16), Fozzard (28), Robin (36), Laulu-Tongagae (55), Yere (62), Straugheir (68)
Goals: Aston 4/6
By David Ballheimer