Rugby League: Tired London show their spirit

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The Independent Online
Halifax Blue Sox 26 London Broncos 24

THE WEMBLEY losers proved far more adept than the Wembley winners at shaking off their hangover. The London Broncos, so badly battered and beaten on Saturday, showed tremendous character to go to Halifax last night with a patched-up side and threatened to win before two tries in the last 10 minutes ended their brave attempt to bounce straight back from their disappointment.

The early indications were that, like Leeds, London had left all their energy at Wembley. Within the first 13 minutes, Halifax scored tries through Dave Bouveng and Paul Rowley, both goaled by Graham Holroyd and the die appeared to be cast.

But a run from Greg Fleming lifted the Broncos. He was stopped by a tackle from Daryl Cardiss, but Damian Gibson was sin-binned for delaying the restart and London soon had their first points on the board, Shane Millard slipping a ball out of the tackle for Robbie Beazley to go in.

Despite losing Matt Salter and Anthony Seibold with injuries to add to an already bumper crop, London went over again before the half-hour, Glen Air and Beazley setting up Chris Ryan.

With Rob Smyth converting both from near the touchline, the Broncos were defying probability by holding the scores level, with Halifax guilty of expecting them to roll over too easily.

London continued to work hard in defence and even to look sporadically dangerous with the ball, but they fell behind when Halifax stretched them by keeping the ball alive and Gibson eventually put Martin Moana over.

But London's spirit was exemplary, taking them back into the lead when Karle Hammond took a quick penalty and Fleming scored, with Smyth's goal giving them the lead for the first time.

With 12 minutes remaining, Hammond dummied his way along the defensive line before giving an inside pass to Smyth, who again converted from wide out.

But then Moana got over for his second and Chris Chester's pass released Paul Broadbent to put Halifax back in front. It was rough justice for the Broncos, who had shown that it was possible to put up a sterling performance in the most unpromising of situations.

"I was proud of them, but I've been proud of them all season," said the London coach, Dan Stains, who will bring in the first of his reinforcements with the arrival of Scott Cram from Australia this weekend. "We've got people there who love playing football and that's what we're going to build this club around."

Halifax Blue Sox: Cardiss; Hobson, Gibson, Bouveng, Pinkney; Holroyd, Clinch; Broadbent, Rowley, Skerrett, Bloem, Gillespie, Moana. Substitutes used: Marshall, Hobson, Fearon, Chester.

London Broncos: Fleming; Smyth, Ryan, Timu, Peters; Hammond, Air; Retchless, Beazley, Salter, Millard, Seibold, Toshack. Substitutes used: Spencer, Calloway, Sykes, Hughes.

Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).