Sting in a tale of two cities

Paris St Germain 24 London Broncos 18
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The Independent Online
Two tries in the last five minutes from their Australian winger, George Wilson, could mean the difference between survival and oblivion for the one team that makes the European Super League European.

An unexpected but richly deserved victory over the representatives of the other capital city across the Channel leaves Paris with every chance of avoiding the relegation that awaits the bottom club in this inaugural season.

It was hard to be certain afterwards who was the happiest with the result: the French, their imported players and imported coach, John Kear, or the chief executive of Super League, Maurice Lindsay, who is so un- ashamedly anxious for Paris to stay afloat and thrive.

All those people have much to thank Wilson for. His game had been a relatively quiet one until the 75th minute when he latched on to a speculative back flick from Vincent Wulf and darted for the line.

Danny Smith, another player from Brisbane, where the London Broncos have their roots and one who was sacked by London earlier this season, kicked the conversion to level the scores and Paris's first thought on their next attack was to manoeuvre for a drop goal.

That was when the luck that has been missing over the last few weeks came home to help them in their hour of need. Pierre Chamorin's effort was charged down, but the ball ran back kindly for Paris and Wilson spotted another gap to score in the corner, Smith rubbing his former employers' noses deeper into the turf of the Stade Charlety with a splendid kick from wide out.

There had been laughter - "cynical laughter" Linday called it - when a crowd of more than 9,000 had been announced moments earlier. Now, however, there seemed to be at least that many in the ground cheering a remarkable fight back and there was even a rousing and emotional rendition of the "Marseillaise" to celebrate Paris's escape from jail on the eve of Bastille Day.

"I'm worn out, but very, very happy," said Kear, whose work with the Paris side was evident in their much-improved defence and their admirable resilience. They led after a dour first half, but when Greg Barwick scored twice for London early in the second half it seemed likely that they would finish empty-handed again, just as they have since their early-season burst of form. Vea Bloomfield dummied and dashed for the line to put Paris back in contention, even though Kevin Langer scored quickly for the Broncos to wipe out that effort.

But then came Wilson's double moment of glory and the phlegmatic Castlefordian Kear was leaping around with Gallic exuberance.

To be at Charlety for London's first visit to Paris was to be at the heart of what Super League aspires to be. It is not a dream they necessarily share in Featherstone or Keighley, but the blueprint is for big city teams in a genuine international competition.

There is a long, long way to go and the hold of Paris on their little slice of reality has looked increasingly tenuous over the last three months, but they are not going to let go just yet.

It will not matter to Paris supporters - mainly non-paying supporters it has to be said - but it was two Australians who worked the oracle for them yesterday.

One of the other ironies of the evening was the inappropriate use of that French term of endearment for the English: "Rosbif". That cut little mustard last night, with no British beef in the all-Australian barbecue that was the line-up of the London Broncos.

London's prospects of making the top four and the play-offs at the end of the season have fluctuated widely over recent weeks. They now look to have lost their chance again and they can blame their failure to match the willingness and tenacity that a collection of Frenchmen, Aus- tralians and an Englishman have brought to Paris.

Paris now face the top three in the Super League - Wigan St Helens and Bradford - in their last three home games. They will not, in all likelihood, beat any of them, but they may already have done enough to ensure that they will play them again next summer.

Paris St-Germain: Bird; Bomati, Vergniol, Banquet, Wilson; Devecchi, Entat; Cabestany, Wulf, Sands, Parry, Smith, Chamorin. Substitutes used: Shead, Bloomfield, Boslem, Despan.

London Broncos: Martin; Maguire, Barwick, Strutton, Minto; Tollett, Dynevor; Bawden, Rae, Mestrov, Rosolen, Shaw, Gill. Substitutes used: Allen, Pitt, Langer, Bryant.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).