RUGBY LEAGUE: Broncos must build in brave new world

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The Independent Online
RUGBY LEAGUE

BY SIMON KELNER

London Broncos 28

Whitehaven 1

This time next year, London Broncos will have taken their place in the Super League, but on the evidence of this comfortable victory in the Second Division Premiership, it will require a fair chunk of Rupert Murdoch's money to transform them into a side capable of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Wigan or Leeds.

By the dawning of the new age, the Broncos will surely have left the soulless confines of Barnet Copthall Stadium, where yesterday 830 devotees turned up in glorious weather to get a foretaste of what is to become a summer game. There was nothing super about the match itself, however, which was standard Second Division fodder, and the Broncos hardly needed to get out of first gear to see off the challenge of a Whitehaven side of limited ambition and even more limited skill.

The Bronco's now travel to the Second Division champions, Keighley, on Sunday for the Premiership semi-final.

Only in the final quarter when Kevin Langer (brother of the Australian Test scrum-half, Allan) took control of a match that was dying on its feet did the temperature on the field match that off it. Langer, with astute grubber kicks, set up tries for Justin Bryant and Jason Roach before going solo, outpacing a languid defence to score himself.

London's other try came from the centre, Scott Roskell, midway through the first half, with the excellent place-kicking of Craig Booth, who landed six efforts, ensuring that the visitors were always kept at arm's length.

In the original Super League blueprint, Whitehaven were to have been consumed in a merged Cumbrian club, but they will now survive on their own in the new First Division.

While they are undoubtedly relieved to have preserved their identity, they played like a team for whom the end of the season cannot come quick enough. Their only resistance came in the form of sporadic reminders of past glories from their veteran New Zealand Test players, Clayton Friend and Kurt Sorensen, and their solitary score was a 40-yard drop goal from the energetic prop forward, Reg Dunn.

For London the problems, if anything, go deeper . They must regroup in time to face the brave new world, first by finding a ground that has more atmosphere and character than this athletics stadium, whose only obvious advantage is its proximity to the M1, and then by building a team that can complete at a level many notches above yesterday's fare.

In the colourful 14-year history of the London club, there have been many false dawns; they will never have a better chance of claiming a place in the sun.

London Broncos: Green; Ekoku, Roskell, Evans, Roach; Stevens, Langer; Massey, Liddell (Heugh, 40), Shaw (Pitt, 32), Bryant (Shaw,70), Stewart, Booth.

Whitehaven: Rose; Lewthwaite, Seeds, Pechey, Quirk; McGuire, Friend; Dunn, Smith, Heatherington, Atherton (Hallison, 48), Sorensen (Blackwell, 70), Morton.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).

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