Bulls' capital show

London Broncos 16 Bradford Bulls 22
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The Independent Online
London Broncos' hopes of a top-four finish in the Stones Super League and a place in the play-offs at the end of the season nose-dived as a result of this bitterly disappointing performance at the Valley last night.

The Broncos were under no illusions about the game's importance. Victory would have given them a good chance of pipping Bradford or Warrington for a play-off berth; now their task looks dauntingly uphill.

For that, they really have only themselves to blame. Until it was too late, they were short of ideas last night and never quite did enough to give themselves a realistic chance of the points. Worse than that, the defence which has looked so solid this season let them down at crucial stages in the first half.

London's problems began in the 15th minute when Ikram Butt was bamboozled by Steve McNamara's kick, which bounced and hung in the air for Jon Scales to take on his fingertips and reel in to score. Five minutes later, the pace and flair of Robbie Paul caught them out. Taking a good short ball from Graeme Bradley, the Bradford captain raced 60 yards to touch down and, with McNamara's second goal, the Broncos were already deep in trouble.

Their prospects improved temporarily when Darren Shaw's drive for the line saw the ball squirt out for Tony Rea to pick up and score, but London were soon struggling again. Bradley, bouncing out of two tackles, sent Bernard Dwyer striding through the defence, the members of which were busy looking at each other. Two penalties from McNamara, bringing his goal tally to five, stretched Bradford's lead in the second half.

Although London had plenty of possession, they could not use it constructively with their kicking game particularly off-key.

Leo Dynevor's second try in the last minute raised the question of what might have been had his unpredictable talents been unleashed on the game earlier. But even with eight matches to play London's best chance of making the play-offs could lie in an expansion from a top-four to a top-eight competition, which will be debated by the Rugby League Council on Wednesday.

The Bradford centre, Paul Loughlin, has been placed on report over a tackle on London's Peter Gill in the second half.

London Broncos: Barwick; Butt, Tollett, Strutton, Maguire; Gill, Langer; G Allen, Rea, Mestrov, D Shaw, Rosolen, Matterson. Subs used: Bawden, Bryant, R Allen, Dynevor.

Bradford Bulls: Spruce; Tamani, Calland, Loughlin, Scales; Bradley, Paul; McDermott, Lowes, Fairbank, Donougher, Dwyer, McNamara. Subs used: Christie, Knox, Tomlinson, Nickle.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).