It was a sweltering south of France that was the backdrop for the opening game of the qualifiers for the Catalans Dragons and London Broncos. It is unthinkable that the Dragons would not make it back into Super League but the Broncos also have their eye on the big prize.
The Dragons were stunned by the mid-week news that under confused circumstances Tony Gigot was back under suspension after previously winning an appeal against a two year sentence and the Broncos would have been hoping to catch them cold at the start of the competition.
The Broncos had a great Championship season finishing second to runaway leaders Hull KR and the Dragons would have been concerned about their opening fixture.
London stunned the home side with the opening try on seven minutes when Dragons old boy William Barthau took an inside ball after a Matt Davies break to go ten metres to score. Jarrod Sammut added the conversion to silence the normally vociferous home crowd.
On thirteen a high kick from Luke Walsh was miraculously caught and grounded by Richie Myler as he hurtled towards the dead ball line. Referee Kendall sent the decision upstairs as a ‘NO TRY’ but was over-ruled by the video official. Luke Walsh added the conversion to tie the scores.
The Dragons were starting to take the upper hand but it was London who grabbed the next try when Rhys Williams found space on the overlap to take an Alex Walker try and score in the corner. Sammut missed the touchline conversion but after twenty-seven minutes the Broncos were 10-6 ahead.
Brilliant London defence, with some great last tackle lock-outs, but with just ten seconds left in the half Brayden Wiliame used great upper body strength to push over the line and get the ball on the ground. Walsh was accurate with the boot to give his side a 12-10 interval lead.
Once again some tremendous London defence thwarted the Catalans attacking play. When the Dragons were offside on fifty-eight Jarrod Sammut kicked the penalty to level the scores at 12-12. When the Dragons got the same opportunity on sixty-four, Luke Walsh was accurate with the boot and his side were back ahead by two.
Louis Anderson opened up some breathing space for the Dragons when Richie Myler confused the London defence with a couple of steps before using Julian Bousquet to put in the pass to the second rower to cross. Walsh added the extra two for 20-12.
With six minutes left Barthau dribbled and picked up brilliantly but dropped the ball, under pressure, in the act of scoring.
There was late consolation for London when Mark Ioane found his way to the line to ground under two tacklers. Sammut kicked the conversión as the final hooter sounded for a final score of 20-18.
London came into this game with the belief that they could emerge victorious, and for long periods they had the Dragons on the rack, defying the divisional difference between the two sides in 2017. The Dragons weren’t convincing in their win and on performances like this they may struggle against Hull KR later in the series. London must be good candidates for the million pound game and the likes of Leigh and Widnes will not be looking forward to meeting them on today’s performance.