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Europe, Euros and Europeans: More Than a Round-ball Realm

  • February 25th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

bolton-fans-1-resize.jpgDedicated Fanatics worked hard but it was not their night when Australian Rugby League in the form of the Broncos made its latest European foray.

RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP CHALLENGE, REEBOK STADIUM, BOLTON UK, 23.2.07: ST HELENS 18 – BRONCOS14

The NRL premiers made the early running against their UK counterparts St Helens, scoring against formidable defence; then caved in, bit by bit, to a run of frontal attacks.

These began to pay off with a converted try in the minutes before half-time, making the half-time score 8-6; scores were levelled, 12-12, 60 minutes into the game; St Helen’s victory try came at 71 minutes in – making for plenty of nail-biting time in the stands.

Final points at 18-14 reflected the close crowd-thrilling game.

The event, an international inter-club contest going back to Super League days in Australia, might not have been much more than a toe-hold for alternative codes, in soccer-football-fixated Europe.

It was played out at Bolton, near Manchester, close enough to the outer margins of the European Union.

The excellent stadium itself, giving under-cover seating to more than 27 000, is normally home to Bolton Wanderers Football Club – playing away to Spurs on the weekend in question.

But the Rugby League fans took it over well, coming close to filling it, easily exceeding regular turn-outs for the Football.

Australians present, a small battalion mostly up from London, working holiday visas in pockets, said:

“It was refreshing to see some Rugby League again; I needed that.”

“It’s all about Rugby League in Australia, especially if you come from Queensland; everyone loves it.”

“My brother sent a picture of the screen from home on the mobile.”

“It’s the greatest game on Earth.”

Players appreciated their help, Darren Lockyer leading Corey Parker and other Broncos over to the stand to say thanks after full time.

Some team members could think back to the same fixture, same place, and the same kind of score in 2001, when they went down to St Helens 20-18.

Members of the small army of St Helens supporters said:

“You’re not singing any more.”

“Oh-ay, it’s a good atmosphere-like; we’ve been building it up until we absolutely batter the Broncos.”

“Saints are the champions, the best team, and they’re going to continue to be so.”

“It is the best game, the most fantastic game on Earth.”

St Helens, the dominant English team built around the legendary Paul Sculthorpe, had some advantage of recent competition.

Still, these lads from near Liverpool had not been looking too dominant, losing their last two UK Super League games.

The win made it a good night for loyal punters against bookies who’d been writing them down, and local commentators are thinking it will wake the team up for the rest of their season.

Game details, reference:

http://www.broncos.com.au/ (24.2.07), http://www.saintsrlfc.com (24.2.07); http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/rugby_league/default.stm (24.2.07); http://abc.net.au/rugbyleague/default.htm (24.2.07)

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