Rugby League: London stung by Hornets

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The Independent Online
London Crusaders. .12

Rochdale Hornets. .24

THERE were only two professional rugby league matches in Britain this weekend, both in London, but Crystal Palace yesterday was a long way from Wembley.

London Crusaders arranged to play the only Stones Bitter Championship match of the weekend, in the hope that some of the 73,000 from the World Cup final would stay on. However, even with the added attractions of a schoolboy festival, a women's game and an amateur match between London and Paris, only a few hundred hardy souls decided to make it a double header.

Crusaders also waited in vain for the hoped for appearance of members of the Great Britain and Australian sides. 'I tried to speak to the British team after the World Cup final,' said the London coach, Ross Strudwick, a forthright Australian who might just have picked the wrong time for social invitations. 'They wouldn't even speak to me, they don't give a bugger.'

Nor, even more depressingly, did there seem to be much interest from the hierarchy of the Rugby Football League, despite all its protestations about the importance of the code's future in the capital.

With David Bishop's comeback stalled after one match by a rib injury, London's side featured some less well-known names. 'Who's our 15? We call him Cosmo,' Strudwick said. 'I don't know what his last name is. Come to think of it, I don't know what his first name is.'

Rochdale rarely looked back after Colin Whitfield - reinforcing rugby league's family image by playing in a game refereed by his brother, Robin - had scored the try that gave them the lead.

Good enterprising handling in the back line produced two further tries from Matt Calland and one from Paul Reynolds. Nick Halafihi's spectacular solo effort and a try from the full-back, Paul Fisher, came too late to save London, but the second rugby league occasion of the weekend had provided more entertainment in its own humble way than the first.

London Crusaders: Fisher; Blackman, Roskell, Pitt, Buckley; Duncan, G McKenzie (Durham, 55); Mulkerin (King, 55), Workman, Rotheram, Halafihi, Smith, Rosolen.

Rochdale Hornets: Webster; Calland, Reynolds, Whitfield, Abram; Gartland, Brown; Eccles, Hall, Phillips (Clark, 62), Marsden, Heugh (Bamber, 40), P McKenzie (Phillips, 69).

Referee: R Whitfield (Widnes).