After a disappointing start to the Qualifiers, London Broncos faced their stiffest test of the competition as they came up against the nailed-on certainties for an automatic Super League 2018 place, the Warrington Wolves.
London knew that a win would lift them into the second of the Million Pound game positions in advance of the Catalans facing Halifax tomorrow at the Shay. A loss would almost certainly signify Championship rugby for 2018.
Warrington made just one change from the side who beat Halifax with Kurt Gidley coming in on the bench after missing the last four. London welcomed back Api Pewhairangi, Eddie Battye, Tom Spencer, Matt Garside and Ben Evans to the side which lost narrowly to Hull KR last time out.
A superb break by Rhys Williams marched London sixty metres downfield a couple of fast play the balls saw the ball moved wide right and Kieran Dixon shrugged off the tackle of Stefan Ratchford and went over in the right corner for the opening try after just two minutes. Jarrod Sammut hit the far upright in failing to convert.
On nine minutes the Broncos grabbed their second, this time down the left wing when Williams received a pass fifteen out with clear air in front of him and there was no catching the London winger as he dove in. Sammut slid his conversion in front of the posts leaving his side 8-0 ahead.
Against the odds the Broncos scored their third try of the game on sixteen when Sammut was on hand to take an Eddie Battye inside pass to go over under the sticks. The stand-off added the conversion for 14-0 and Warrington were stunned.
Warrington opened their account on twenty-eight when Tom Lineham picked up a Kevin Brown kick which Dixon had failed to catch and he walked over to score. Dec Patton missed the conversion attempt and his side were still ten adrift.
Within the closing sixty seconds Kurt Gidley fed King who crashed over by the left upright. Patton added the conversion to leave his side trailing by 14-10 at the interval.
It was a tremendous first forty for the home side who were well worth their interval lead. The Wolves looked like the side battling for a place in the Million Pound game and London has the assuredness of a side with more than one point in the Qualifiers.
Five minutes into the second half and the Wolves were level as Peta Hiku took a Jack Hughes pass after a scrappy period of play to go ten metres to score. Patton added the extras for a 16-14 lead to the visitors.
On fifty-one Kevin Brown extended the lead as Warrington turned up the temperature. Taking the ball at first receiver he threw the dummy from five metres and dropped the shoulder to go over. Patton kicked the extras for 22-14.
Two minutes later and Ratchford broke before finding Patton to go twenty and score under the sticks. He added the conversion himself. On fifty-seven Ben Westwood crashed over under the sticks gifting Patton a simple conversion and within a thirteen minute period the Wolves had gone from 14-10 behind to a 34-14 lead.
Rather than throw in the towel, Sammut got his second of the night just after the hour mark when after kicking a delightful 40-20 he threw a massive dummy and stepped past two tacklers to score. Sammut added the extras to get back within fourteen of the visitors.
It was brief respite for London as Kevin Brown extended the Warrington lead when he was first to win the race chasing a Williams chip kick to ground the ball in goal. Patton added the extras from wide for 40-20.
On seventy-one Sammut got his hat-trick as a nice passing move from half-way including breaks from Barthau and Pewhaiangi found the poacher Sammut in support to take the pass and dive over from close. He added the extras for 26-40.
Andy Ackers grabbed Londonís sixth try on seventy-four when he brushed off two tackles and spun over the line to score under the sticks. Sammut added the two to get his side back within eight.
Dixon got his side back within two when he took a Sammut pass and went seventy metres down the touchline before rounding behind the sticks to give Sammut a simple conversion for 38-40.
It was a nail-biting last two minutes for the Wolves and their supporters but they managed to see out the last London set and then earned a penalty to beckon the final hooter.
Once again the Broncos lost out by the narrowest of margins and Warrington will consider themselves lucky to have got away with the two points, and maintained their one hundred percent record in the play-offs. This was far from convincing from the Wolves and rather than wrap up the game when they had a big lead they eased off the gas and let a determined and accomplished London side back into the game. For London this is likely the end of their Super League dreams, for Warrington it is close to giving them the assurance of the top flight in 2018. On such small margins do our game turn.
Broncos: Walker, Williams (T), Kear, Pewhairangi, Dixon (2T), Sammut (3T, 5G), Barthau, Battye, Ackers (T), Ioane, Gee, Pitts, Davis. Subs:Spencer, Cunningham, Garside, Evans.
Wolves: Ratchford, Russell, Hiku (T), Atkins, Lineham (T), Patton (T, 6G), Brown (2T), Hill, Smith, Sims, Jullien, Hughes, Westwood (T). Subs: Philbin, Gidley, Savelio, King (T).
Referee: Liam Moore.