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FULL TIME, PICTURES ADDED: London Broncos 62 Warrington Wolves 18
IT can only be hoped that all the hard work completed in getting to Wembley and second place in the Super League table is not undone with a sloppy performance at London Broncos tonight.
Second-from-bottom Broncos made it three wins on the bounce against a much-changed Warrington team that did not look to be at the races at times. That was especially the case in the second half, which Wolves lost 38-0.
It leaves Wolves needing Wigan to slip up twice in their final three games to have any chance of retaining the League Leaders' Shield.
London looked like they took inspiration from Wolves’ ‘nerve’ to think they could turn up at Twickenham Stoop and win with a depleted side.
They ended up inflicting on Warrington their heaviest score of Tony Smith’s reign, beating the 60 points mounted by the Londoners two games into his arrival as head of coaching and rugby in 2009.
Former Australia scrum half Craig Gower ran the show and was chief tormentor, setting up a stack of the tries and kicking nine goals from nine attempts.
And for the second week running Luke Dorn crossed for four tries as the chief beneficiary of Gower's orchestration, while interim head coach Tony Rea was hailed as the arrival of the new Messiah.
From the start Wolves’ play was scruffy, with uncharacteristic mistakes made with and without the ball that were probably typical of any side going into a game with nine changes.
Support players for set plays were sometimes missing, holes were appearing in defence that have not been present in recent times and penalties were being conceded late in penalty counts.
Despite the mistakes, some lack of intensity and vulnerability in defence, Wolves battled through to be only six points behind at half time but they were never in it in the second half.
Two charge downs went against Wolves as London built up a 12-0 lead inside seven minutes.
Michael Monaghan blocked the kicker at the end of the game’s first set and Broncos scored with their next lot of tackles, Kieran Dixon touching down Gower’s clever grubber kick behind Chris Bridge and Rhys Evans.
From the next charge down Wolves regathered possession but Chris Riley ’s offload along the floor was knocked on by Rhys Williams and Broncos broke away through Chris Melling. Although the scrambling defence got back they could not stop Gower steering Will Lovell over the whitewash on the next tackle.
With Gower converting both tries it left Wolves in unfamiliar territory having dominated possession, territory and the early scoring in their most recent matches.
Wolves came close when they worked an opening on the left courtesy of Adrian Morley and Paul Wood but the final ball was not cleanly taken by Tyrone McCarthy at full stretch and under pressure from several defenders.
A response was on its way though with Trent Waterhouse collecting a Richie Myler kick and feeding Stefan Ratchford with enough room to step round Michael Robertson’s attempted tackle. Ratchford then added his first conversion for the club to make it 12-6 after 15 minutes.
Simon Grix conceded a penalty for a ball steal and it paved the way for London to strike again, with Luke Dorn stepping off his right foot to leave Wolves’ ruck defenders flat footed. Gower’s extras restored Broncos’ 12-point lead with 22 minutes played.
Wolves hit back again when Myler angled a route to the line after video referee Robert Hicks spent an age looking for an obstruction from Mike Cooper that proved not to be there. Ratchford goaled for 18-12 after 28 minutes.
A Riley knock on at dummy half and a penalty conceded by Ratchford for stealing put Wolves under pressure again and they paid the price.
David Howell blasted through Wolves’ line from a Robertson pass and his offload along the ground was picked up by Omari Caro for London’s fourth converted try in the 35th minute.
There was still time for Wolves to hit back with quick hands on the left from Myler and Ryan Atkins putting Williams over in the corner in the 38th minute. Ratchford converted wonderfully from the touchline for the teams to turnaround at 24-18.
It was all London in the second half.
A Howell break left Wolves in scramble mode and on the next tackle Julien Rinaldi ran sideways before dropping off Dorn on his inside to go over for his sixth try in two games. Gower’s extras made it 30-18 after 46 minutes.
London had their tails up and struck again after being gifted possession from Riley and Ratchford getting in each other’s way from a Gower kick. The ball was spun wide to Omari Caro and after stepping out of Williams’ tackle Robertson was on his inside to finish off. Again Gower’s boot added the bonus points for 36-18 after 62 minutes.
Chris Hill was harshly sent to the sin bin for what was deemed a late and high challenge on kicker Gower and the scrum half potted the penalty goal to extend the lead to 18 points in the 65th minute.
Gower’s forward-looking offload handed a try to Julie Rinaldi in the 70th minute and the extras took the score on to 44-18.
Dorn’s hat-trick try in the 76th minute was the result of an interception of Grix’s pass to make it 50.
Robertson pounced on Dorn’s grubber kick when Bridge laboured in the clearance and then Dorn was in the support of a break to conclude the try scoring in injury time. Chris Melling banged over the final two conversions.
With regards to the team selection, Wolves went into tonight’s Super League round 25 clash with nine changes to the starting line-up that was on show against Wigan Warriors last weekend.
Two backs were in the same roles – Atkins at centre and Myler at scrum half – with skipper Morley and back rower Waterhouse the only two forwards in the same starting positions.
Riley switched to full back and Ratchford to stand off, while the seven incoming players to the starting XIII were Evans on the right wing, Bridge at right centre, Williams on the left wing, Michael Monaghan at hooker, Wood at prop, McCarthy in the second row and Grix at loose forward.
Hill, who started at prop against Wigan, was on the bench along with recalled Mike Cooper, Matty Blythe and David Solomona.
Wolves: Chris Riley; Rhys Evans, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Rhys Williams; Stefan Ratchford, Richie Myler; Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan, Paul Wood, Tyrone McCarthy, Trent Waterhouse, Simon Grix. Subs: Mike Cooper, Matty Blythe, Chris Hill, David Solomona.
Broncos: Michael Robertson; Kieran Dixon, David Howell, Jamie O’Callaghan, Omari Caro; Luke Dorn, Craig Gower; Antonio Kaufusi, Chad Randall, Scott Wheeldon, Chris Melling, Will Lovell, Ben Bolger. Subs: Mark Bryant, Olsi Krasniqi, Mike McMeeken, Julien Rinaldi.