Rugby League: Fleming's final fling crowns Broncos' fightback

Sheffield Eagles 20 London Broncos 26
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The Independent Online
A TRULY remarkable fight back by the London Broncos lifted the gloom of losing their New Zealand Test prop, Grant Young, with a suspected broken leg at the Don Valley Stadium last night. Trailing by 12 points with 15 minutes to play, the Broncos stormed back with three tries, the last of them from Greg Fleming, winning an enthralling contest in the final minute and leaving them still unbeaten this season.

Sheffield had marginally the better of the early sparring and took the lead with a penalty from Mark Aston after London were caught offside. They were putting themselves under pressure defensively, however, with handling mistakes in their own territory and had a gruelling stint of three sets of six tackles to survive midway through the first half.

They could not do it, with slick handling from Shaun Edwards, Karl Hammond and Peter Gill releasing Fleming for the game's first try, successfully improved by Brett Warton. The Eagles' reply, four minutes later, was a spectacular effort. Waisale Sovatabua started it with a pass to Keith Senior, who fed Matt Crowther, back in the side for the first time in 10 months. Senior put Crowther's return pass to ground, but Sovatabua hacked on and the ball sat up obligingly for Martin Pearson to claim a try which Aston converted for a two-point half-time lead.

Of greater concern to the Broncos, with a Challenge Cup semi-final against Castleford looming next weekend, was the sight of Young being taken off by stretcher with what may be a leg fractured in two places.

It got worse for London right at the start of the second half, Tulsen Tollet fumbling the kick-off and Sheffield capitalising ruthlessly, Aston's short pass sending Pearson over for his second try, again converted.

It was time for London to dig deep and they did succeed in narrowing the margin by two points with a Warton penalty. Suitably warned about the perils of sitting back on their lead, Sheffield struck again. Aston's high kick induced a knock-on and as the pressure built, Jeff Hardy's sharp pass sent in the Eagles captain, Darren Shaw, for a try against his former club.

That, along with Aston's fourth goal, should have made it safe, but London roused themselves once more, Edwards putting Fleming over only for the try to be disallowed for an earlier forward pass.

There was no doubt about Martin Offiah's eighth try of the season 15 minutes from time. Taking a fine pass from Robbie Beazley, he hardly needed to get into top gear to cruise over in the corner, Warton's kick bringing it back to within one score.

With five minutes left Edwards flashed out a lightning quick pass for Dominic Peters to score his first try for the club and Warton added the goal from the touchline to bring the scores level.

All the momentum was with the resurgent Broncos now and John Timu's tremendous run took them to within striking distance. The ball was moved rapidly to the right flank for Matt Toshack to provide Fleming with the final pass and Warton even managed a conversion from the opposite touch-line this time in off the post to emphasis the sheer audacity of London's escape.

Sheffield: Sovatabua; Sodje, Lovell, Senior, Crowther; Pearson, Aston; Molloy, Lawless, Laughton, Jackson, Shaw, Hardy. Substitutes used: Powell, Watson, Wright, Anderson.

London: Tollett; Warton, Fleming, Timu, Offiah; Hammond, Edwards; Young, Beazley, Retchless, Peters, Simpson, Gill. Substitutes used: Millard, Toshack, Callaway. Not used: Ryan.

Referee: Steve Presley (Castleford).

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