The result sends Tony Rea’s men through to the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup
London Broncos produced a fully disciplined 80 minutes to knock Bradford Bulls out of the Challenge Cup and progress to the quarter-finals.
It is the second year in a row that the Broncos have made this stage of a competition which they have never won.
It was a terrific response to coach Tony Rea’s stinging criticism of their second-half performance last week at Hull and was London’s third win on the trot at the Twickenham Stoop.
Matt Cook, Kieran Dixon and Scott Wheeldon set the ball rolling in the first half before Michael Witt added a vital try to his perfect conversion rate and late drop goal.
A welcome, balmy evening at the Stoop was ideal for the fans with the Bulls well supported in the away end and London clad in their special edition red cup kit.
The Broncos started in determined fashion with Antonio Kaufusi barging into Bradford’s forward line and Dan Sarginson defending well high up top from Craig Gower’s long kick.
But the Bulls were first to go over when Jarrod Sammut picked up a loose ball after Brett Kearney’s enterprising run came to an end and attacked with menace to bypass London in the seventh minute.
The entertaining stand-off kicked an easy conversion to add the two points.
Witt produced a 40-20 to give the Broncos a good opportunity to test the Bulls’ resolve three minutes later but Shane Grady spilled the ball having charged through the Bradford left hand side.
London had something to cheer about in the 14th minute, though, when Gower’s close-range assist led to Cook careering over for the hosts and Witt levelled with the conversion.
There was a bust-up two minutes later when Nick Scruton deliberately collided into Gower after he’d kicked and Witt challenged the away prop’s behaviour.
No decision was given and, moments later, Kaufusi knocked out James Donaldson legitimately as the cup tie threatened to become quite nasty.
Once again, referee James Child called both captains across and indicated that the big Tongan international would go on report for the incident as Donaldson groggily left the field.
The intensity levels were piquing as the sides tried to engineer a lead and the away side’s Kearney was next to feel the force of London, going down after an aerial challenge.
Having survived five sets from Bradford, Chris Melling prevented a goal-line drop out and the ball was sprayed to livewire winger Dixon who took full advantage of the smallest of gaps on the left wing to run 60 metres and put London in front for the first time in the 25th minute.
Witt added the extras and they went further in front in the 32nd minute when Wheeldon collected the ball a few metres out and barged over, Witt extending the score with a goal.
Mark Bryant made a big hit on Bradford’s Chev Walker and further roused the delighted home crowd and London went into half-time 18-6 up and believing the passage to the quarter-finals was on.
The Bulls started the second-half strongly and Adrian Purtell thought he’d reduced the arrears only for Child to rule that a knock-on had taken place after sluggish Broncos defence.
London responded well but Bryant was fortunate when he lost possession 30 metres from his own try-line that Bradford didn’t capitalise on this gift.
As the game reached the hour mark the action became very tense and the otherwise impressive Olsi Krasniqi knocked-on as the Broncos charged forward.
It felt as if the next score would shape the rest of the game and a slight deflection off Sammut into touch gave London territory in the final 20 but Witt’s drop-goal attempt went wide on the final tackle in the 62nd minute, with the Broncos itching to put this game to bed.
The home fans were on their feet just a minute later when Gower’s grubber bounced off the post and Witt made amends for his earlier miss, by leaping highest and grounding the ball before extending his side’s lead to 18 points as London sensed victory was theirs.
Bradford’s John Bateman created further cheer with the home support when he carelessly threw the ball out of play without looking and Purtell apparently primed to grab a try in the 68th minute.
The Bulls were not to be denied in the 71st minute, though, having rallied excellently after Witt’s try and Scruton’s effort was followed up by a Sammut goal with time running out for the five-times Challenge Cup winners.
Bradford had their tails up but great defensive work from Ben Fisher and Krasniqi made dangerman Sammut knock on with the Bulls in rampant mode.
Witt made an important interception with four minutes left from a sloppy Matt Diskin pass just metres from the Broncos’ line.
A knock-on by Bradford led to a chorus of “Wembley!” from the elated London support and from the resultant scrum Witt kicked a drop goal in the 79th minute.
An inconsequential last-minute try from Elliot Kear, followed by Sammut’s missed goal attempt, couldn’t take the shine of an exciting win for the Broncos and thoughts of the upcoming quarter-final draw.
SWLondoner Broncos Man of the Match: Michael Witt. The Australian stand-off popped up everywhere and took advantage of the platform London’s excellent forwards afforded him and scored the all-important second-half breakthrough try.
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