Broncos in new surge

Dave Hadfield reports on a change of fortune for a Super League side
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The Independent Online
The London Broncos can forget any prospect of being able to sneak up on the unwary during the second half of their Super League programme.

Their draw at Wigan last week has alerted the other clubs in the competition to what the London coach, Tony Currie, has been saying from the outset - that the Broncos should finish in the top four. "I never based our strategy on us sneaking up on teams," he said. "I think other clubs and coaches in Super League have been too aware of our ability to let that happen. But it certainly won't happen now. It could be more a matter of other teams catching us on the hop."

Today's match against Halifax - the first of eight home games in the last 11 of the season - is a case in point. "We have got to back up what we did at Wigan with another good performance," said Currie. "It's no good going from the penthouse to the basement in the space of a week."

The Halifax coach, Steve Simms, will have no difficulty hammering home to his players the scale of their task at The Valley. The Broncos' result at Wigan does that job for them, although Simms is not surprised at the progress London have made. "They have got a lot of experienced players and the ones who have come from Australia are not here for a holiday any more," he said. "They have players here who want to play, and that has made the difference."

Halifax, recovering from a dismal start to the season, hope to have Simon Baldwin back today. London will be without Terry Matterson, their captain and most influential figure at Central Park last Sunday, who has a calf injury. Steve Rosolen comes into the pack, with the 18-year-old Australian scholarship recruit Michael Brown taking his place on the bench. Neither Greg Barwick nor Gavin Allen are ready for action yet.

St Helens and Wigan have fixtures which could, with all due respect to their opposition, be regarded as warm-ups for their showdown next Friday. Saints take on the bottom club, Workington Town, with Andy Northey back in their squad and Bobbie Goulding desperately eager to play after his cracked collar-bone - both to prepare for Wigan and to give himself a chance of the fastest century of goals. He needs six and could well get all the opportunities he requires against Workington.

Wigan, their pride wounded by the way they lost their shape and direction last week, are at home to Oldham. Shaun Edwards moves to stand-off and Jason Robinson to full-back, in the absence of Kris Radlinski and Henry Paul, with Craig Murdock at scrum-half.

Lurking behind the top two are the Bradford Bulls, who could be considered out of the title reckoning but for the fact they play both Wigan and Saints at home next month - at a time when, like it or not, the top two will be without key players, who are committed to the Oceania Cup. For now, Bradford must avoid any slip-up at Castleford, who have responded to internal and external pressures by reverting to afternoon kick-offs.