Rating each side’s Super League experience: London Broncos

Back in the 1990s, London Broncos were admitted to the Super League, despite only finishing fourth in the Championship.

They were added to give the new Super League a way into the capital.

Their first season could very much be considered a success. It started slowly though, after a 12-10 defeat in the Challenge Cup against Championship side Dewsbury.

However, they went on to finish fourth under guidance of Tony Currie and qualified for the Premiership Trophy. Although, they were knocked out after a 25-14 defeat against St Helens at Knowsley Road.

Having started their Super League at The Valley, home of Charlton Athletic, the Broncos moved to The Stoop, where they shared with Harlequins RU.

Progression

On the pitch, London were able to progress again, as they finished second, seven points behind champions Bradford Bulls.

Once again, they entered the Premiership Trophy, which was expanded to include all 12 teams. However, they went out in the first round against Sheffield Eagles.

In 1998, the Super League moved into a new era as the playoffs would decide who would be league champions. The Broncos missed the cut, as they finished seventh, four points behind the Bulls.

There was progress in the Challenge Cup that year too, as they reached the semi-finals for the first time, but they were beaten 38-8 by Wigan.

In 1999, a new name had taken charge of the Broncos as Les Kiss took over. However, it was a disappointing league campaign for them as they finished eighth, 13 points behind Castleford  Tigers in the final playoff position.

However, they did make it to Wembley for the first time, as they reached the Challenge Cup Final. They did it after a famous 33-27 win over Castleford. Tries from Robbie Beazley, Shaun Edwards, Peter Gill, Martin Offiah, Karle Hammond and Steele Retchless sealed the win.

But they were beaten 52-12 by Leeds in the final, despite taking the lead early on.

As London moved into the new Millennium, it was a struggle for them as they finished second bottom. Former Wigan coach John Monie had taken over, and struggled to get the side to perform. They also went out early in the Challenge Cup.

They also moved back to The Valley for the 2000 season.

The Rea era

Australian Tony Rea took charge of the side ahead of the 2001 season and led the Broncos to a much more respectable finish of sixth. They finished six points behind Leeds.

The Broncos were on the move again in 2002, as they played their matches at Griffin Park, home of Brentford FC.

They were in a closely fought fight for the final playoff place with Widnes Vikings and Castleford. The Tigers won the place, with London three points behind.

London were in the final spot with three games to go, but defeats against Leeds and St Helens meant they missed out.

In 2003, London got what they desired and entered the playoffs for the first time under the new format after finishing fifth. However, they were beaten in their first match 24-6 against St Helens.

But they couldn’t build on it in 2004, as they finished just three points ahead of Castleford Tigers at the bottom of the Super League.

They soon bounced back though. In 2005, they went on to finish sixth on points difference ahead of Wigan in the final playoff place.

Once again, they lost in the first game, as they were beaten 44-22 by Bradford at Odsal.

In 2006, they moved back to The Stoop once again and re-branded as Harlequins. This was to mark a takeover of the club and to make Harlequins a dominant name in both codes.

However, they fell just short of a playoff place that year. They finished seventh, just three points behind Warrington in the final playoff position.

Brian McDermott

Brian McDermott’s first Head Coach role was at London. Credit: News Images

At the end of that season, Tony Rea left the club after five years in the Head Coach’s role. He was replaced by former Bradford forward Brian McDermott.

Their fortunes were about the same in 2007, as they finished four points behind Huddersfield in the race for the playoffs. They had been in the playoffs, but only won one of their last seven matches to fall out.

Harlequins struggled for consistency in 2008, and finished ninth, six points behind Warrington in the race for the playoffs.

A year later, once again, they were in the playoffs, but only won one of their last ten games to miss out on the playoffs. They were four points behind Catalans in the end.

2010  was a big struggle for the Quins, as they once again, finished dangerously close to the bottom of the league. They were just two points ahead of Catalans.

At the end of that season, McDermott left the club to take the Head Coach’s role at Leeds Rhinos. Rob Powell took over.

Struggles

The next year wasn’t much better either. They would have been just one point off the bottom if Wakefield and Crusaders had not have had points deducted for entering administration.

They won four of their first five games, but only won three more times before the end of the season.

In 2012, they reverted back to London Broncos, but that didn’t help them as they finished just two points off the bottom. They won four of their last five matches to take them off the bottom.

Ahead of the 2013 season, Tony Rea returned to the club after seven years away. However, he couldn’t improve their fortunes, as they finished second bottom.

A 34-22 win over Hull KR ensured they did not finish bottom. A hat-trick from Mason Caton-Brown, two from Jamie Soward and another from Mark Bryant secured victory for the Broncos.

They also reached the Challenge Cup Semi-Finals, but were beaten 70-0 by Wigan.

With their financial restraints becoming more and more real, they entered the 2014 season with a great deal of uncertainty.

As it happened, they only won one game of the season, and were relegated from the Super League as part of a reshuffle.

Tony Rea left the club for the second time after 11 games. Joe Grima took over for the rest of the season.

Their only win came against Leeds; 40-36 at The Stoop. A hat-trick from Joe Keyes, and other efforts from Jordan Atkins, Kieran Dixon, Scott Moore and Mike McMeekan sealed the win for the struggling Broncos.

Rebuild

Danny Ward helped London to the Super League, and remains at the helm after their relegation. Credit: Mark Cosgrove/News Images

London spent a few years rebuilding in the Championship, before they went and upset the odds and beat the much-fancied Toronto Wolfpack in Canada to win promotion.

What made that even more incredible, they didn’t score a try. Jarrod Sammut scored two penalties to ensure a 4-2 win for London.

They made it back to the Super League under the guidance of Danny Ward. Their win at Toronto would set the stall for their Super League campaign.

London gave the Super League a big effort, and claimed wins against St Helens, Wigan and Leeds. They were relegated, despite picking up 10 wins over the course of the season. They went down after a 19-10 defeat against Wakefield.

The future

Mike McMeekan started his career at London Broncos, and scored was on the scoresheet as they won their only match in 2014. Credit: News Images

London have brought through a lot of local talent over the years. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Dan Sarginson, Mike McMeekan and Tony Clubb are just some of the players to come through the London academy.

The grassroots game is very strong in London, and there is no doubt they can get back to the big time soon.

Rating

5/10- they have done well for the game in the capital, and have had their moments in the Super League. Given their last season in the Super League, they could well get back up soon and build back up again.

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