A stupid o’clock Eurostar journey whisked me home from Paris where I’d watched Saracens win their Champions Cup Quarter Final – that game literally went to the final minute – my poor nerves! I was hoping my Monday afternoon pick would be a calmer affair.
London Broncos have started well at home inter new guise as a Championship team having won 3 from 3, away from hadn’t been so good, with their first win coming at Featherstone on Good Friday.
Batley Bulldogs had 3 wins from their season so far. A little about the history of Batley before I get into match mode – They were amongst the 20 clubs who broke away from the Rugby Union in 1895 after the historic meeting at the George Hotel in Huddersfield.
They were the 1st winners of the Northern Union Challenge Cup in 1896 beating St Helens at Headingly – they were crowned as ‘Champions of The North’. The cup was retained in front if a crowd of 27,941 in April 1898, this time Bradford were defeated. Further trophies were added in 1912 and 1924.
And so a team with a long and proud history travelled to take on relative new comers to the game in London. They brought a good number of loyal fans with them which was great to see.
As is generally the case the visiting team looked a lot bigger than Broncos, in this case I’d say Batley had several players who were pretty enormous! Batley kicked off and regained the ball, something they did twice during the game as the kick off was exceptionally high, giving the runners time to reach the ball.
Both teams traded sets with some hard tackles flying in, there were more than a few dropped balls. Bead Dwyer shone for the Broncos throughout the game, he’s a testament to the fact that the opposition players can’t run without his legs as he put in tackle after tackle. He was also instrumental in his teams’ 1st try, he made a neat inside add to Matt Garside who ran in to score. Wes Naiqama, Captain for the day added the extras.
This time Broncos came up with the ball from the kick off, Ben Farrar taking the ball well. Brad Dwyer again became try maker as he put in what looked like a very strange kick – at an angle – Daniel Harrison however was singing from the same hymn sheet – he pounced on the ball to score. The score was 12 nil to Broncos after 13 minutes as Naiqama added the 2.
Batley did that kicking the ball high and regaining it from the kick off – this time Jordan Grayston caught the ball and made good ground.
A penalty was awarded to Batley very close to the Broncos line after a late hit on the kicker – the set came to nothing as the ball was passed in effect to Naiqama – the referee was too quick to blow his whistle – it did seem at times that he was a little uncertain about some of the rules – such as a free play once the ball’s been knocked on. Oh and there was a suspicion at times that he was miscounting the tackles too.
Ray Nasso made a great break for Broncos at one stage – he made a lot of ground but Shaun Ainscough took the ball straight out of his hands – again something that happened at least twice more. Maybe the Broncos boys need to work on holding the ball in 2 hands a bit more!
Jamie Thackray had entered the fray for Broncos and was instrumental in their next try – he made a great break passing to Elliot Minchella, he passed inside to an on rushing Ben Hellewell who scored; Oscar Thomas converted the try.
The teams went in at half time with the score on London Broncos 18 Batley Bulldogs 0 – in spite of the score it had been an even half of rugby, with both teams playing some entertaining rugby.
The 2nd half started with Batley seeing a lot of possession – after a blatant forward pass by Broncos they went close through James Brown – but he was held up over the line. Sustained pressure in rugby league more often than not leads to a try and Sean Hesketh scored for Batley with sheer strength – a try that had been coming. Cain Southernwood converted to take Batley to 6.
Broncos were awarded a penalty in their own half and chose to take a tap rather than kick to touch against the wind – I questioned the decision, but my disquiet was shut away after Joe Keyes made a great off load to Minchella who, with some work to do scored, Naiqama back to kicking duty converted the try.
The scoreline at Broncos 24 Batley 6 should have felt quite comfortable but the Bulldogs had other plans! One player in particular shine for them in the 2nd half – Alex Rowe – a big man he has very quick hands, he looked to be one of the most skilful players on the pitch in the last 20 minutes. He was held up over the line by Broncos before Batley put a move together which saw the ball make its way out to the wing and Wayne Rettie, he ran in to score. Cain Southernwood scored what was a pretty amazing 2 points from the side line, he seemed to make the ball curve over the posts!
Broncos had a spell of giving away penalties allowing Batley to have good posssesion – we had another held up scenario before Sean Hesketh simply used his size to get over the try line and score. Southernwood took his side to 18 and a 6 point gap.
Had Stevo been at the game he would have been yelling – ‘go for the one!’ and that is what Broncos worked up to – Oscar Thomas in a good position cooly slotted the ball over the posts.
As a Broncos fan the final moments were still heart in the mouth time but the final whistle went with the score on London Broncos 25 Batley Bulldogs 18. The game was thoroughly enjoyable – both teams can take a lot from the afternoon. I’m very much enjoying the grittier rugby league that is Championship rugby!