Rugby League: Bradford hold on but fail to impress

Bradford Bulls 17 London Broncos 14
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The Independent Online
RUMOURS that Bradford were back to their barnstorming best looked premature at Odsal last night as they struggled to beat even a badly depleted London Broncos.

A deeply unimpressive performance from the Bulls could have seen them pipped in the last few minutes. That would have been no injustice, because London had every bit as big a share of one of the season's less distinguished games.

Bradford fell a long way short of last week's form at Castleford in the first half, frequently bunching to an extent that saw them getting in each other's way.

They did, however, take the lead after 10 minutes, Robbie Paul supplying Graeme Bradley and Tevita Vaikona's strength taking him through two tackles before Bradley accepted a difficult return pass to score.

London's response five minutes later was a try fashioned by Damien Chapman and Tulsen Tollett for their Scottish full-back, Nick Mardon.

Terry Matterson's conversion put the visitors ahead and they should have increased that lead before half-time but could not take advantage of a prolonged period of pressure. They paid the price in the last minute of the first period.

Stuart Spruce made the initial break, getting his pass away to the former London scrum-half, Shaun Edwards, who set up James Lowes for the try just before he was tackled by Tollett.

Bradford's grip on the game tightened six minutes after the break when Paul was stopped close to the line only for Lowes to find Brian McDermott, in something of a vein of try-scoring form at present, who reached out to plant the ball, Steve McNamara landing his second goal.

London showed they were not finished when an excellent pass out of the tackle from Steve Rosolen released Mardon for his second try. Matterson, astonishingly, missed the conversion from virtually in front of the sticks.

That try ushered in another period of territorial domination for London, but Bradford, for all their failings with the ball in their hands, defended solidly to keep them at bay.

Matterson's miss looked even more damaging when McNamara's 30-yard drop goal scraped over the bar to give the Bulls a seven point lead.

The Broncos reduced that to three a couple of minutes from time when Peter Gill and Grant Young sent Iain Higgins in at the corner.

The real excitement in this match came late. A short kick-off regained possession for London and gave them a glimmer of hope but precious seconds were wasted when Bradford conceded a penalty, Gill's last kick of the match was too deep and the Bulls scraped home.

Bradford Bulls: Spruce; Vaikona, Bradley, Peacock, Ekoku; Paul, Edwards; McDermott, Lowes, Donougher, Nickle, Dwyer, McNamara. Substitutes used: Scales, Forshaw, Calland, Reihana.

London Broncos: Mardon; Cotton, Toshack, Tollett, Smyth; Gill, Chapman; Dunford, Beazley, Salter, Rosolen, Retchless, Matterson. Substitutes used: Spencer, Young, D Higgins, I Higgins.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).