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by Trad McLean, Saturday February 24, 2007

THE Australian curse in the World Club Challenge has continued after St Helens came from behind to defeat the Ergon Energy Broncos 18-14 in England this morning.


The Broncos looked the stronger team early, but in a repeat of their last WCC tilt in 2001, were run down by the English Super League champions at Reebok Stadium in Bolton.


Taking a slender 8-6 lead into halftime, the Broncos looked on their way to grabbing another piece of silverware when they led 12-6 early in the second half.


But inspired by Great Britain international Paul Sculthorpe and a good crowd of over 23,000, the home side managed to level the game and then score a late try to win the match.


The victory was the sixth time in the last seven WCC matches the English team have triumphed.


It was also a huge win for St Helens, who had lost their two Super League matches running into the clash.


“It was very easy to play on such an occasion,” said Sculthorpe as he was named man of the match.


“The games we have played so far in Super League have not been up to our ability.


“But tonight we proved on the field what we are capable of.”


The Broncos had got the best possible start when second rower Corey Parker scored after just five minutes.


Saints winger Ade Gardner failed to handle a towering Darren Lockyer bomb, with Parker on hand to scoop up the crumbs.


Parker converted for a 6-0 lead.


The Broncos went further ahead in the 12th minute when former Newcastle, NSW and Australian centre Matt Gidley was penalised for a lifting tackle on Shaun Berrigan.


Parker again goaled and it was 8-0.


But a silly penalty just before the break caused the Broncos some harm.


Saints were piggy-backed down the field and on the second tackle threw the ball wide, Gardner diving over in the corner.


Sculthorpe slotted from the sideline and the Broncos led by just two.


They took just two minutes to answer in the second half, with Darius Boyd taking a Lockyer chip to score.


There was some luck though, after Australian referee Steve Clark appeared to miss a Broncos forward pass in the lead-up.


They didn’t get the rub of the green in the 46th minute though, when the video referee denied the Broncos a try.


Jumping on a Saints mistake, Lockyer looked like scoring until a Saints hand raked the ball backwards and it was dived on.


The video referee ruled a Lockyer knock-on.


Saints then took their chance, Sculthorpe bamboozling the Broncos' defence with an inside-out run, his try and conversion drawing the English champions level in the 56th minute.


Parker nudged the Broncos ahead with a penalty in the 62nd minute, but then Gardner flew high with 10 minutes left to take a Sean Long bomb and score the decisive try.


The Broncos return home to Australia on Monday morning to prepare for their final NRL trial, against grand final opponents Melbourne at Victoria’s Princes Park on Saturday.

Meanwhile back in Australia, members of the Broncos' senior squad have been involved in a morale-boosting victory over an NRL club.

Nine Broncos joined with nine Redcliffe Dolphins to make a 'Best of the Queensland Cup' team to take on the Canberra Raiders.

In a shock, the Broncos-Dolphins combination blew away the near full-strength Raiders in the second half to record an 18-12 win.

Canberra led through an early Adrian Purtell try, but young Bronco Denan Kemp brought it back to 6-4 with a try just before halftime at Dolphin Oval.

But three tries in six minutes to the combined side was the difference.

African-born Gideon Mzembe crossed in the 60th minute, followed in quick succession by Ryan Cullen and then Nick Emmett.

A try to Canberra's Phil Graham late in the match was only a consolation.