Broncos grazing pastures new down south
London Broncos 22-29 Bradford Bulls
Rugby League’s London Broncos may still be finding their feet in the Stobart Super League, but are expanding across the capital. LS Sport’s Hugo Greenhalgh reports…
Two weeks ago, George Galloway told guests at a Leeds University-hosted Question Time that the Bradford Bulls had won four games in a row since his by-election victory in Bradford West.
Although the Bulls have lost their two matches since, against Huddersfield and Warrington, Galloway will surely be smirking once more after an impressive victory over the London Broncos on Sunday.
Leyton Orient’s Matchroom Stadium (known to the purists as Brisbane Road), played host to a lively affair that saw the Bulls win by seven points, thanks to four tries from Michael Platt.
The fixture was the first of two ‘road matches’ for the Broncos that see the sole London side in the Super League playing outside their usual home, the Twickenham Stoop.
The aim is to expand the Broncos’ relatively slim Southern fanbase in a league dominated by the Northern giants of the so-called ‘M62 Corridor’.
Spirits among the Broncos fans were high after last week’s Challenge Cup victory against Batley. The travelling Bulls supporters were also in good number and voice, enjoying a weekend in the capital and the chance to see a different stadium.
However, it was the Broncos who started strongest, racking up 16 points in the opening 10 minutes.
The tries came courtesy of Robertson, Cook and Channing and were the just reward for the Broncos’ swift and attractive passing game.
Two former Broncos then combined to put the first points for the Bulls on the board. Karl Pryce scored the try after catching a high kick from Luke Gale, with Gale kicking the resulting conversion.
The defensive weaknesses of both sides were highlighted, as there were three more tries before the break. A Michael Witt try for the Broncos was sandwiched by two excellent touchdowns for the Bulls by Platt. The teams left the pitch for halftime with the score 22-16 to the Broncos.
However, celebratory chants of “London Town is wonderful” were presumptuous as the Bulls made a confident start to the second half. After a series of strong carries, Platt scored his third try of the afternoon with Gale adding the two points.
The Bulls tormented the Broncos for the remainder of the game, with Pryce in particular proving a real handful. Their intense pressure paid off with Platt adding another try to take the lead for Bradford.
A penalty and a drop goal sealed the victory for the West Yorkshire side, the game finishing 22-29.
Although the coach Rob Powell will be disappointed that his side let a 16-point lead slip, the Broncos will look to take the positives from the game.
They successfully broke through the Bulls’ defence on numerous occasions and this exciting style of play is exactly what the club wanted to showcase.
In many ways, the Broncos looked more at home in the more modest surroundings of East London.
Since the opening day of the Super League they have failed to get gates of more than 2,500 at the Stoop, which can hold 15,000. In a smaller ground like the Matchroom (capacity 9,000), a greater atmosphere and intimacy can be created.
Of course, the Broncos are fighting an uphill battle for popularity. In a capital city dominated by football and where rugby fans favour union, league struggles to get a look in. This is why events such as Sunday’s are so vital.
The Broncos’ victory in the Under 20s fixture before the senior kick-off proves that the future is bright, with the London side able to attract the best young talent in the south. Tickets are already selling fast for the club’s next venture, taking place at Gillingham FC’s Priestfield Stadium in a fortnight’s time.
Long may rugby league continue to grow in pastures new.
Photo: Martin Belam