Rugby League: Bradford's Lowes blows hot

London Broncos 12 Bradford Bulls 34
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The Independent Online
London Broncos did not quite have the guile or the power to crown an eventful week by knocking last year's beaten finalists out of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup. After the move to new surroundings at the Stoop and the coup of attracting a high-flier like Richard Branson as part owner of the club, the Broncos came down to earth rather leadenly yesterday.

"They are going to be a good side, especially down here," said Bradford's man of the match, James Lowes. "But they are not ready for us yet." Nor, apart from a brief and fortuitous flurry of 10 points midway through the second half, did the Broncos ever look likely to get ready. "Bradford wanted it more than us," said Terry Mattison, their captain.

It was significant that much of Bradford's impetus, the extra hunger that London lacked, came from two players who were signed too late to play in last year's Wembley defeat by St Helens.

Lowes was rightly recognised for his all-round display, but the dominant figure early in the game was Steve McNamara, whose misfortunes last season also included missing the Great Britain tour with a hand injury. McNamara gave every indication of making up for lost time as Bradford set about London with ominous relish from the start.

After only two minutes, he constructed the opening try for Paul Loughlin and it seemed a matter of how many more the Bulls would score and how quickly. But they missed a series of promising opportunites before striking late in the first half through a spectacular move begun by Robbie Paul, back on the ground where he played his winter rugby union.

Paul sent Graeme Bradley away, Sonny Nickle supported and exchanged passes with Lowes to send the Bulls in at half-time with a lead that began to reflect their superiority.

The Lowes-Nickle axis was also responsible for the score with which Bradford began the second half, Lowes this time picking up a ball put to ground by Brian McDermott and sending Nickle striding through.

London had looked so disjointed that it was surprising to see them even threaten a recovery from this position, but their hopes did rise - if only for a few minutes. First Mattision and Greg Barwick devised a chance for Scott Roskell to score and then David Krause capitalised on a Bradley pass that fell to earth to race away and bring his side within four points.

Mattison, forever the realist, admitted that "we were a bit flattered to be in that situation" and, sure enough, they were not in it for long. Their revival was snuffed out by another telling break from Lowes, he released Paul and the combination of a sidestep and the intrusive presence of the referee completely wrong-footed the London full-back, Tony Martin.

With that, the Broncos, whose week of relocating across London had been tiring as well as momentous, collapsed. In the last six minutes both Glen Tomlinson and Paul Cook scored fine individual tries.

Cook had come on as a replacement for Stuart Spruce, another who missed the Wembley experience last year and played most of this match despite spending the week in bed with a chest infection. It was another example of Bradford's fierce desire to succeed this season after promising so much last.

That was the element that was missing from London's performance. They had been filled up with a lot of hot air in the week, but they did not have the fuel on board to get them very far.

London Broncos: Martin, Maguire, Smith, Krause, Roskell, Tollett, White, Mestrov, Beazley, Bawden, Rosolen, Gill, Matterson. Substitutes: Barwick, Dunford, Best, Spencer.

Bradford Bulls: Spruce, Scales, Bradley, Peacock, Loughlin, Paul, Tomlinson, McDermott, Lowes, Reihana, Donougher, Nickle, McNamara. Substitutes: Jowitt, Knox, Cook, Medley.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).