Rugby League: London hit trough in The Valley

London Broncos 14 Sheffield Eagles 21
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The Independent Online
There is a camping shop around the corner from London Broncos' new home at The Valley called "Best Intent". That rather sums up the whole flavour of a match in which they found even their simplest plans fiendishly difficult to execute.

The Broncos are going to have to work long and hard to attract decent crowds to Charlton Athletic, which is off the edge of the earth as far as their existing supporter base in West London is concerned. The lack of atmosphere at a ground that still carries hints of its old scale did not help them yesterday, but they brought most of their problems on themselves in the first half by probably playing their worst rugby of the season.

Perhaps there were too many Englishmen in the team; a whole three of them for most of the match, including the first of their London-based signings in whom they are setting such a long-term store, Junior Paul.

The kindest thing to say about Paul was that he looked a very raw recruit indeed. At least he had an excuse for some excruciating handling errors, which is more than can be said for the more experienced players around him.

Sheffield are not a side you can take those sort of liberties with these days. This win made it a record-equalling run of six victories and there was little doubt from early in the game that they were going to exploit London's fallibility.

Their back-row forwards, Paul Carr and Ian Hughes, particularly enjoyed themselves against some shoddy tackling. Carr struck first after six minutes, latching on to a clever kick from Dean Lawford and Hughes followed his example 10 minutes later, cutting back against the flow of a slick handling move to catch London's defence out once more.

The Broncos, squandering what little possession they had, rarely got into Sheffield's half, although a pass from Peter Gill to Ben Walker did spark an isolated attack, which ended with Tony Rae sending Paul Hauff over.

But then Hughes picked up a ball dropped by Walker and Carr ran unmolested from dummy half as they each claimed a second try, with Lawford adding a drop goal for insurance.

London were not as bad in the second half, but that is purely a relative judgement. Hauff got his second try and his 11th of the season from Walker's pass as Sheffield clearly, and correctly, felt that they had done enough.

In injury time Paul Stevens went in for a touchdown which made the Broncos' effort look better than it was.

They will have to perform a lot better than this to entice fans to deepest south-east London. It is one thing to pitch your tent; quite another thing to persuade people to gather around the camp fire.

London Broncos: Hauff; Butt, Roskell, Keating (Stevens, 11), Paul (Langer, 73); Walker, Dynevor; Mestrov, Rea, Shaw (Pitt, 65), Bawden (Rosolen, 30), Gill, Matterson.

Sheffield Eagles: Gamson; Dakuitoga, Stott (Price, 65), Garcia, Senior (Sheridan, 64); Mycoe, Lawford; McAllister (Lawless, 52), Cook, Dixon, Hay, Hughes, Carr.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).