London Broncos suffered a narrow 28-42 defeat at the hands of reigning Super League and Challenge Cup champions Leeds Rhinos in the third round of the Super 8s.
With a half a dozen England stars in their side, the game should have been all Leeds, but it was the Broncos who took the lead early on through a fabulous Rhys Williams try – the Welsh international touching down as the Trailfinders ground burst into life as Jamie Soward slotted the conversion.
England international Tom Briscoe responded for the visitors, with Liam Sutcliffe falling short with the conversion. Sutcliffe made amends shortly afterwards as the Rhinos ramped up the pressure, with the fullback taking advantage of a fragmented defensive line.
London rallied through James Cunningham as the hooker slipped his way through the Leeds defensive guard to dodge two defenders and dot down for the Broncos
At 12-10 the Broncos looked strong, only for Briscoe to pop up on the touchline and score again. He was quickly followed over by James Segeyaro who pounced just moments before halftime.
The reigning champions showed their Super League calibre as Kallum Watkins drifted through the London defence, only for Ben Hellewell to come up with the tackle of the afternoon. The Broncos centre dislodging the ball from the arms of his opposite number.
Lilley and Achurch were there to add enforcement as the duo crossed in quick succession for the Rhinos.
Watkins made up for his error and Leeds looked the dominant force for much of the remainder of the half, with Watkins adding four points to the scoreboard and Briscoe bagging a hat-trick.
Not put off by their international opposition, cavalier prop Nick Slyney upped the ante, as he carted through the Leeds defence to give the Broncos hope.
Iliess Macani was next to get in on the act, as he charged 50m down the Leeds wing, passing England star Ryan Hall on his way to send the spirited London fans into a frenzy. Elliot Kear – who missed last week’s game due to the birth of his child – crossed too, as the Broncos put in a performance they could be proud of.
A proud Broncos coach Andrew Henderson told londonbroncosrl.com: “There was a lot of commitment showed by our boys. It was all going to be a tough contest and Leeds have started coming together really well.
“It’s the fine margins in these big games, in this environment you have got to be clinical, we made silly error and put ourselves under pressure. But credit to our boys they all rallied and dug deep and then we got a reward with the scoreline.
“I think today was an encouraging sign of where we’ve come from as a club and that’s credit to our squad who’ve bought into what we’re trying to do down here and are passionate about the club and rugby league in the capital.
“The way we competed today against Leeds and against Leigh the week before showed that we’re not that far off. We have a lot of belief going forward and we’re still in the race.”
London Broncos: Alex Walker, Rhys Williams, Ben Hellewell, Elliot Kear, Iliess Macani, William Barthau, Jamie Soward, Nick Slyney, James Cunningham, Mark Ioane, Daniel Harrison, Matt Garside, Jack Bussey.
Interchange: Andy Ackers, Mark Offerdahl, Jamie Thackray, Eddie Battye
Tries: Williams (5), Cunningham (21), Slyney (59), Macani (76), Kear (78)
Goals: Soward 4/5
Leeds Rhinos: Liam Sutcliffe, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Jimmy Keinhorst, Ryan Hall, Joel Moon, Danny McGuire, Keith Galloway, James Segeyaro, Mitch Garbutt, Brett Ferres, Carl Ablett, Jamie Jones-Buchanan
Interchange: Jordan Lilley, Mitch Achurch, Anthony Mullally, Adam Cuthbertson
Tries: Briscoe (11,25,63), Sutcliffe (13), Segeyaro (38), Lilley (46), Achurch (50), Watkins (52)
Goals: Sutcliffe 5/8