Hornets 18 - London Broncos 58
In Sunday’s Observer Sports section, Aaron Bower took 1,000 words to lionise the ‘project’ underway at the Trailfinders Stadium to get London Broncos back into Super League. And ‘project’ is a good word to describe the Broncos promotion push. It’s nicely rational, speaks of process and procedure - and that’s reflected by their style of play - organised, pragmatic and productive: football by spreadsheet. Project-managed.
We spoke in our preview about London’s ruthless efficiency and, whilst it’s impressive up close, it does lack a bit of soul. Every player has a set role and it’s left to Jarrod Sammut to pull all the levers in the right order to send the points rolling off the production line.
With only a minute gone, London signalled their intent, Sammut hoisting a huge bomb; Dec Kay a brave catch, Rob Massam a forceful clearing drive. But within two minutes, London were back on the attack and a neat blind-side sneak caught Hornets napping and Ackers strode through to score. Sammut the two (this would become a recurring theme) for 0-6.
On 7 minutes what looked like a clear London knock-on was - like Rob Massam - pulled back, only for referee Mr McMullan to give the visitors the feed. And when Sammut stepped back inside to score, it had an air of inevitability about it. Sammut with the two: 0-12.
Hornets responded with some direct football, but when Lewis Galbraith was mugged by three London players in the tackle, Mr McMullan gave a knock on. London were similarly fortunate four minutes later: the entire three-quarter line offside at a last tackle kick and, in the ensuing chaos, ref McMullan missed a forward pass in the build-up to Walker’s scrappy try. Sammut on target; 0-18.
On the quarter mark, Hornets sprang to life: Lewis Galbraith testing the Broncos right channel, but as his pass went to ground, Hornets were given a penalty. Immediately Hornets shifted the ball right, where Jake Eccleston steamed straight through his opposite number to score. Danny Yates off the touchline for 6-18.
Hornets then produced a near perfect attacking set: hard direct running to eat up the metres, a block-busting break by Ant Walker and Lewis Foster on hand to score under the posts. Lovely stuff. Yatesey on target and - at 12-18 - it was game-on.
However, when Jono Smith was compelled to end the next set with a kick, London shipped the ball into space on the left edge where that man Sammut popped-up to score, adding the extras too for 12-24.
But still Hornets hit back: Lewis Galbraith turning Hellewell inside out up the left, then a great cut-out pass to Rob Massam who piled in by the flag. Danny Yates slotting the kick from the touchline: 18-24.
On the half hour, London were pretty much gifted a try: Lewis Foster slicing his attempt at finding touch; 45 seconds later Davis mugging a retreating defence from acting half. Horrible. Sammut the two for 18-30.
Despite the setback, Hornets still strove to play some football: first Rob Massam soaring to reach for a teasing bomb, the ball slipping from his fingers as he landed awkwardly. Then Jono Smith unzipping the Broncos defence, only for his reverse pass to fall into London hands.
With the first half almost done, Hornets - for reasons better known to themselves - charged down a last-tackle kick going nowhere on half-way, handing London one last chance to attack, They did, Bienik scored. Sammut converted and Hornets went into the sheds 18-36 down. All a bit freakish.
The second half was - from our point of view - a bit of a non-event. Hornets continued to press, probe and move the ball around: London happy to play to process and keep the scoreboard ticking over - Williams in the corner on 48 minutes; on the hour a fortuitous Evans try that even the London fans couldn’t be arsed cheering; Ackers from acting half on 70 minutes and Walker up the right channel through a Hornets defence out on its feet. All very perfunctory. The London fans banged their drum, sang about Super League and retired to the bar.
In the wash-up this was a tale of two sides with differing agendas. London - as had been made clear in the Observer that morning - have pinned their future on getting back into Super League and secured a second-place finish with this result to give themselves yet another shot at the big time. Hornets, meanwhile, are looking to next week’s game at Oldham to provide a foundation for their Championship Shield challenge, where survival by any means remains the target.
It’s fair to say that, after next week, the season becomes a mathematical equation conjugated week-by-week in two point increments. Indeed - with seven shield games to come - if Hornets win next week and Bradford lose against Swinton, there’s no way for the Bulls to overhaul us, halving the risk of relegation. But more importantly a win next week gives us a realistic shot at snatching 8th place, which guarantees us four home games in the 8s.
It’s tense, nail biting stuff - but it’s what we all signed up for. So let's have it.