Rugby League: At last, a tango from Paris as Broncos underestimate rivals

David Hadfield witnessed a new spirit within a team fighting for survival
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The Independent Online
The Paris St Germain coach, John Kear, searched in vain before this match against the London Broncos for a French phrase equivalent to "muck and nettles". Whatever might have been lost in translation during his pre-match talk, his players got the general idea, battling to the end of a contest that had seemed lost to gain two invaluable points that improved their Super League survival prospects no end.

"It wasn't pretty," Kear, the Yorkshireman who has been sent over to try to salvage the situation in Paris, said of the 24-18 win. "But that doesn't matter. We got the win and it will make a huge difference to the players' confidence."

Kear has applied a pragmatic philosophy to Paris's plight. He has instilled simple principles, cut out the frills and, with them, many of the mistakes, and he has tightened up their defence beyond recognition.

Much of the French flair has gone out of the window in the process; in fact, the instinctive moments of skill that turned the game around on Saturday came from a New Zealander and an Australian. "It's sad to see that there are less and less Frenchmen in the Paris side," said one of the stalwarts of the game in France, Robert Fassolette. "But, in the short term, it was justified."

It was the former Junior Kiwi Vea Bloomfield who scored the try that kept Paris in contention, dummying and charging for the line. Paris were still six points behind going into the last five minutes, but George Wilson still had a double blow to inflict.

The Brisbane Broncos winger was suffering so badly from cramp that he would have gone off 10 minutes earlier if Paris had had any fit replacements. Instead, he stayed on his flank to take Vincent Wulf's blind pass and touch down.

In the last minute, after Pierre Chamorin's drop goal attempt had been charged down, he found another hole in London's wide defence and dived over. Danny Smith, sacked by London earlier this season for missing training, was the third kicker used by Paris and he put over both conversions.

"I'm very glad now that I stayed on," Wilson said. "After I scored that second try my legs just tied up, but I managed to get back on my feet and get off the field at the end. When I first arrived here I wondered what I'd let myself in for, but the spirit amongst the players now is tremendous."

As for the London Broncos, this looks suspiciously like the end of their on-off flirtation with a place in the top four. They played - apart, for some obscure reason, from their stand-off, Tulson Tollett - resplendent in red boots, but that was the only colourful thing about their drab performance.

The Broncos were guilty of underestimating Paris and particularly the spirit that Kear's hard-headed approach has stirred within the club.

PARIS: Bird, Bomati, Vergniol, Banquet, Wilson, Devecchi, Entat, Cabestany, Wulf, Sands, Parry, Smith, Chamarin. Substitutes: Shead, Bloomfield, Boslem, Despin.

LONDON: Martin, Maguire, Strutton, Barwick, Minto, Tollett, Dynevor, Bawden, Rae, Mestrov, Rosolen, Shaw, Gill. Substitutes: Allen, Pitt, Langer, Bryant.

Referee: S. Cummings (Widnes).