Before I start writing this match report I must confess I really just want to type…… London Broncos 6 Wigan Warriors 58 – The End! But alas that would do no justice to the visitors to The Hive on Saturday, so a report I must write; I can’t promise to hang in there all the way through but I’m going to try! The match day started for me with a very tasty lunch in the hospitality area at The Hive in the company of some very passionate Broncos fans and a few legends of the game to say the least; as the first 7 past Broncos players were inducted into the Hall Of Fame. Martin Offiah, Shaun Edwards and Mike Ford turned up to add some presence and entertainment to the occasion. I could probably write a piece as long as the match report; and may well do another time. Suffice it to say, all 3 were great speakers and goodness how on earth did I ever believe Shaun was shy! I will however share the names of the 7 great past players – Reg Bowden, Hussain M’Barki, Scott Roskell, Mark Johnson, Peter Gill, Rob Purdham and Steele Retchless. I was lucky enough to see 4 of the 7 play and totally concur. I was a bit surprised that Terry Matterson wasn’t included however.
Now, on to the game, I’ve delayed too long. The game didn’t start well for Wigan, with the ball going straight out from the kick off; that may well have been their 1st and last error. It looked as if we may have been in for a repeat of the start of the reverse fixture when I found myself in the press area unable to leap in the air yelling as Broncos scored 2 early tries! The sign of things to come came early in the half as Wigan strung together a great set, only failing as the final pass was forward. We had a controversial moment as the Broncos kicker was tackles high and late, we could have seen an early card but instead a penalty was awarded and the matter wasn’t even put on report. I do wonder about rugby league referees at times! Anthony Gelling opened up some space combining with Josh Charnley on 15 minutes, the winger, clearly fit and back in form stormed down the wing untroubled to score. Matty Smith added the extras. He was to have to have a fair amount of say in the game, showing the Broncos players how the kicking game should be played. A superb kick early in the tackle count gave Wigan a great attacking platform as the 40/20 was awarded, it has to be said there was never a doubt! That attack however came to nothing. A try wasn’t far behind after a penalty and dropped ball in quick succession gave Wigan the ball close to the Broncos line. A familiar pattern started to emerge – Broncos made a mistake – Wigan scored! Matty Bowen ran through a lacklustre defence, his namesake Matty Smith converted.
As far as attack was concerned for Broncos my notes say – they look like bees round a honeypot – they seemed to have no plan. Josh Charnley clearly did have a plan and he became provider as John Bateman benefited from a great break by the winger. Again the final run in was an easy one. Matty Smith in great form added the 2. Charnley added to the pain on 30 minutes with his 2nd try after Matty Smith had put in another great 40/20, giving Broncos no let up at all! Having run down his wing to score, Charnleys’ touchdown made it a challenging kick again for Smith, this time he missed. There was one small chink of light just before half time as the ball flew out of Scott Taylors’ hands in the tackle and into the hands of Thomas Minns; he stormed down the pitch to the delight of the home fans to score! Josh Drinkwater converted the try. The teams went in at half-time with the scores in London Broncos 6 Wigan Warriors 22.
A quick dash back to the dining table for a very tasty Lemon cheesecake consumed in extra quick time then found me sitting pretty much alone as the other people were clearly a lot more civilised with their ‘afters’! Sitting in a different part of the ground and much closer to the action it was literally possible to hear the hits, how these men get up after just one I will never know! We had a few dropped ball early on in the half, with Iliess Macani making the error close to his own line. Wigan of course pounced on the error with Anthony Gelling showing that anything Charnley can do so can he. Matty Smith added the 2 with another text book conversion. There was another really concerning moment in recent weeks on a rugby league pitch as Thomas Minns looked to be really quite poorly. Did he go off? No, magic sponge again I presume as he simply carried on! How long before we read of a serious consequence after an injury has been ‘brushed’ off? The Broncos were given a lifeline when they were awarded the put in to the scrum (I use that word loosely) after they seemed to be the team who knocked on! A forward pass foiled what was shaping to be a promising attack. Wigan of course made no such error as Jack Hughes ran through the gap left by a Bronco who’d come out of the line, Scott Taylor was on his shoulder and he took the ball to score. Smith, naturally, kicked the conversion.
Tony Clubb came and stood in front of where I was sitting and goodness he looks much fitter as well as much bigger than when he was a London player. Gil Dudson was next on the score sheet for Wigan as he scored taking 3 Broncos players over the line with him. Matty Smith converted to take the visitors score to 40. It was getting painful, although I must say, watching the expansive play of the Champions, it was hard not to admire. They passed with such speed, knowing there was going to be a man in place to take the ball as it sped across the field. Those quick, accurate hands saw the ball land in Josh Charleys’ hands and he scored his hat trick try with great delight. In common with all of London’s games this year they had a spell of making a good fist of things (if that’s ok to say about professional players?) but they weren’t to add to their 6 points. Wigan however weren’t finished and Joe Burgess was sent on his way after Dan Sarginson set him up, he ran virtually the length of the pitch to score. Smith added the 2 and the Wigan fans sang, loud and proud as they were fully entitled – ‘That’s why we’re Champions!’ I could only sit back and admire and agree. Sarginson and Burgess added to the Broncos agony as they again combined, Burgess scoring his second and thank goodness Wigan’s’ last. With no let up for the home team, Matty Smith kept up his immense kicking performance adding the 2 points. The final score as headlined at the start London Broncos 6 Wigan Warrior 58 – oh my word! Another hard day to be a London rugby league fan!