Rugby League: Offiah inspires his Broncos

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The Independent Online
London Broncos 20 Warrington 13

It was not directly down to the Martin Offiah factor, but London got to where they aspire to be yesterday by hurdling over their rivals for a top-four spot in the Stone's Super League.

Offiah hobbled through much of his debut for his home town club on what he admitted was a venture into the unknown in more ways than one. He was dangerously close to arriving late in a part of the city where, as a Hackney boy, he had never been before. And then he had to get used to not having Wigan's familiar backline on hand to provide him with the ball.

All that and the legacy of a foot injury that has kept him out of action for the last month ensured that this was not vintage Offiah.

It took him all of 10 minutes to get his first touch of the ball - good preparation, perhaps, for his future with his other new club, Bedford - and even then he had to come inside to take a pass from Gavin Allen.

He also made a mess of one early try-scoring opportunity, getting under Duncan McRae's bomb behind the try line, only to let it drop through his hands.

After 27 minutes, however, a born finisher who has worked to improve his overall contribution to his team's approach play handled cleverly to set up McRae for London's first try.

Greg Barwick gave the ball to Offiah a little too early, leaving him with plenty to do before he could weave through Warrington's defence and lay it off to the man in support.

That converted try put London 8-2 ahead, but there was a lack of cohesion - blamed by their coach, Tony Currie, on the disrupted week waiting for Offiah's transfer to be finalised - which allowed Warrington back into the game.

Jon Roper's try, converted by Ian Knott, brought them level by half-time and Kelly Shelford's drop goal gave them a slender lead early in the second half.

London went ahead again when McRae's high kick, possibly meant for Offiah, landed instead in Barwick's territory and he out-jumped Knott to score.

Warrington, lacking a gang of regulars including Iestyn Harris, who was withdrawn with a knee injury that will do nothing to defuse speculation about his future, battled hard in a scrappy match and drew back to within a point through Mateaki Mafi, who capitalised on a ridiculous pass by Tony Mestrov.

But, after Steve Roskell had wasted one chance by knocking on Offiah's pass, London struck decisively, even if Warrington believed that Peter Gill had been guilty of an obstruction in setting up Darryl Pitt.

"I'm more relieved than anything to get it over," Offiah said afterwards. "It wasn't the best preparation this week and, whilst I wasn't apprehensive, I knew it wasn't going to be easy.

"I'm not too bothered about not scoring on my debut, because I never do," he added, recalling similarly quiet starts to prolific careers at Widnes and Wigan. "I was happy just to be able to make a contribution."

London know that there is a bigger contribution to come. An announced crowd of almost 7,000 does not represent a massive breakthrough with the London public, but the combination of Offiah and a top-four finish would surely mark their arrival as a serious force.

London Broncos: Martin; Roskell, Barwick, Krause, Offiah; Tollett, McRae; Allen, Rea, Mestrov, Rosolen, Shaw, Gill. Substitutes used: Ross, Pitt, Maguire.

Warrington: Knott; Forster, Kohe-Love, Roper, Mafi; Shelford, Swann; Jones, Watson, Stevens, Hulme, Cullen, Sculthorpe. Substitutes used: Rudd, Finau, Barrow, Holden.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).

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