With the rugby league and union seasons overlapping it felt like an age since I’d made my way to the Hive to watch London Broncos, having been at the Premiership final for the game against Hull FC. I took with me my friend Sue who was attending her first league game, having watched Saracens v Quins at Wembley and been bored I hoped she’d find league to be more entertaining. The Hive, home to Barnet FC as well as Broncos has a great vibe and very unusually serves food that’s verging on healthy! Almost unheard of at a sporting venue! Having eaten a very tasty chicken fillet burger each we headed across to the stands. In all the years I’ve watched Broncos, 18 by my reckoning, I don’t think there’s been a single game when I haven’t looked at the opposition and thought – they’re so much bigger than our boys! And Widnes were no exception, I believe that, as a rule size makes a huge difference as the game goes on, time would tell.
Widnes kicked off and Broncos were awarded an early penalty for lying on at the tackle, the ball was lost, giving away the advantage. The referee blew for another penalty for Broncos as Widnes crossed as they attacked. Josh Drinkwater stepped up to put 2 points on the board early. An early mistake by Jamie O’Callaghan, who dropped the ball as he stood up after he was tackled, gave Widnes a good attacking platform. Kevin Brown kicked early in the tackle count in what looked like a training ground move, the ball made its intended target Patrick Ah Van; he went over the line to score. Danny Tickle added the extras with a great kick taken from near the touchline. The ball was knocked on early in the tackle count by Widnes giving Broncos a chance to attack, Denny Solomona made a run through, with Matt Cook following suit before the ball was kicked on, going just too far. Iliess Macani showed his calm under the high ball as he caught a high ball kicked on by Brown.
Play was stopped for a period after debutant Joe Keyes went down injured after making a big tackle. He looked to be in a lot of difficulty but carried on after treatment. The worrying thing to me is that he left the field of play later in the half looking very groggy still. Rugby league surely need to look at their protocols when it comes to serious injuries, how long before the magic sponge treatment and miraculous recovery leaves a player with a long term problem? I’ll get off my soapbox now and get back to the rugby. Iliess Macani having fielded one high ball with great skill was caught out by an attempted 40/20, he managed to keep the ball in only to see it go over the line with his next touch. Again Widnes found themselves in a great position, again Kevin Brown was instrumental as he passed to Hep Cahill, he ran through the middle of several Broncos players to score, Tickle converted to take Widnes to 12. We had a virtual repeat as half time approached with the Brown pass going to Danny Galea this time; he had the same easy passage through to the tryline, Tickle added the 2 to open the gap to 16. Just as despair was setting in Broncos went on the attack, Scott Moore put a great kick in, Denny Solomona ran onto the ball, kicked it and it very kindly bounced up into his hands to see him score an exciting try. Josh Drinkwater kicked the conversion to take the score at half time to London Broncos 8 Widnes Vikings 18.
The story of the first half, a Broncos mistake, a Widnes try was repeated at the start of the second half. Broncos gave away a penalty in their own half; Rhys Hanbury scored the Vikings’ 4th try! The ever immaculate Danny Tickle added the 2 points. Widnes had an opportunity to add to their score as Chris Dean ran down the line, he should have passed inside, but chose to go alone, dropping the ball as he was tackled. Paddy Flynn however made no such mistake a few sets later as he took 3 Broncos players with him across the line to score. His team mates were clearly keen to set Tickle a challenge, this kick from virtually the touchline was however sent between the posts! From reading my notes I think it’s best to note we had a series of knock ons by both sides, least said best on that spell of the game I think. Paddy Flynn was to have the next word when it came to putting points on the board; he scored, yes on the wing again, in the first move after a scrum from one of the aforementioned scrums! Patrick Ah Van stepped up to take the conversion; and didn’t let his side down; Widnes moved to 36 points.
As a Broncos fan I am used to seeing my team beaten, and as yet this side hasn’t had a win; but this season this group of men keep going, that means I’ve never walked away from a game in disgust. This game was to be no different as Broncos won a penalty to give them a good position; James Greenwood scored a great try, spinning round in the tackle to put the ball down. Josh Drinkwater took the score to Broncos 14 Vikings 36 with the conversion. Jamie O’Callaghan made a great break from Broncos as they went on the attack again, he probably should have passed but Drinkwater’s kick on the last was knocked on by Widnes and the ball kindly landed in Atelea Vea’s hands, he scored! Utter delight for the Broncos fans! Drinkwater’s kick was successful. We had a bit of a schamozzle (made up Stevo word) in the lead up to the next Widnes try, the ball got turned over to the Vikings and Rhys Hanbury took full advantage taking the ball as it was flicked off the ground. Ah Van took the visitors to 42 with his kick. Broncos had the last word on the scoreboard after Widnes were forced to drop out, Matt Cook being the try scorer this time. He showed a deceptive turn of speed to score a well deserved try, the kick went wide. Cook has personified the never give up spirit of his team mates, leading by example, the try was a very popular one. The score finished on London Broncos 24 Widnes Vikings 42.
Broncos were beaten by an at times classy Widnes Vikings, Kevin Brown showed his ever present class, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him have a bad game, certainly against my team! I had a chat with Dennis Betts and Mick Cassidy after the game, and they were pretty amazed that I had a smile on my face. I feel certain that Widnes are going to keep on improving with 2 legends of the game at the helm. But I also have hope for London Broncos the club is building something good, it may not be in Superleague, but there’s more to the game than one league. Onwards and upwards for Broncos as they welcome Wigan next! Hopefully I’ll still be smiling after that one!