Rugby League: Brisbane win battle of the Broncos

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Brisbane drew first blood for Australia in the Battle of the Broncos that opened the World Club Championship yesterday morning, but London gave them a scare before running out of steam to lose 42-22.

The British side recovered from an early 12-point deficit, with tries by Andrew Duncan, Robbie Beazley and two - setting a new club scoring record - from Scott Roskell. But then they lost Shaun Edwards, who had inspired their fightback after coming on as a first-half substitute, with a hamstring injury.

Brisbane, league leaders in Australia, immediately recaptured the lead through Darren Lockyer, who also kicked seven from seven, and ran away with it in the last quarter, as the long journey and a heavy penalty count caught up with London.

The North Queensland Cowboys captain, Ian Roberts, misses today's match against Leeds with a knee injury, but their Test hooker, Steve Walters, is fit to face a full strength Headingley side.

Salford go into their game in Adelaide tomorrow under the shadow cast by the life ban on their former captain, Ian Blease, for assaulting a touch-judge. "They will be shocked at the severity of the sentence, because Ian is a highly-respected team-mate to all of them," the club's chairman, John Wilkinson, said. "I hope they will be professional enough not to be affected by it."

Blease, who has an excellent disciplinary record over his long career, is taking the weekend to decide whether to lodge an appeal.

Also in Australia tomorrow, Halifax face a formidable task against Canberra Raiders, while in Europe Warrington, Castleford and Paris all open up with home fixtures.

Warrington have Salesi Finau back from suspension on the wing and - importantly- Paul Sculthorpe fit again after a chest injury to face the highly-fancied Cronulla Sharks.

Castleford, bottom of the league in Europe, switch Adrian Vowles back to his usual position of stand-off in place of the injured Graham Steadman, while Paris face an in-form Hunter Mariners, who beat Brisbane last week.

England and Wales will come together as Great Britain for the 1998 World Cup, which will be staged in three countries in the Southern hemisphere. Papua New Guinea will stage World Cup matches for the first time, the International Board decided at its meeting in Paris yesterday.

Twelve teams, including for the first time the New Zealand Maoris, will be split into four pools, two in Australia and one each in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea when the competition is held in the autumn of next year.

The chairman of the Maori Rugby League, John Tamihere, said: "This is a wonderful day in the history of both the Maori nation and the code of rugby league in New Zealand. We are proud and delighted to receive the invitation and we look forward immensely to the challenge. We clearly support our sovereign body, the New Zealand Rugby League, but we hope to represent the Maori nation with pride."