Rugby league’s latest expansion outfit prevailed 14-6 against amateur champions Siddal in their first competitive outing, but were forced twice to dredge themselves back from behind in order to avoid a momentous Challenge Cup third round upset.
Beamed live worldwide via the BBC, Wolfpack’s big debut had threatened to sink deeper than the touchline mud when Gareth Blackburn kicked the hosts into a first-half lead, then again when the same player was sent in for their only try shortly after the break.
Late tries from Greg Worthington and Adam Sidlow dug Toronto out of a hole but they had star player Fuifui Moimoi sent off late on a game that proved to be a hard-fought battle between some great talent in the game’s true heartland and the Wolfpacks formidable squad.
Siddal had never seen anything quite like it: their hard-core crowd of a couple of hundred swollen well above a thousand despite conditions which worsened throughout the game – and a plummeting temperature only three degrees higher than that currently being experienced in the Canadian winter.
Toronto arrived with big expectations having spent an intense pre-season preparing for their League 1 campaign, which will begin at London Skolars next weekend. The team has had to build a team from scratch and bring together players from a variety of backgrounds to play together in short time.
They had no reason to assume anything other than the expected landslide as they pegged their hosts back in the opening exchanges, but heroic home defending kept the visitors at bay until a high kick saw Blackburn kick Siddal into an unlikely lead.
US Eagles captain Ryan Burroughs responded with the Wolfpack’s first competitive try to give his side the edge at half-time, but the hosts were far from done and Blackburn brought the house down when he pounced on a grubber kick to edge Siddal back in front.
Toronto’s preparations finally paid off in the later stages as the amateurs tired, but finished full of praise from their guests, with Wolfpack director of rugby Brian Noble – resplendent in black wellies which matched his club coaching kit – quick to pay tribute.
The former Bradford and Wigan coach said: “Big credit has to go to Siddal who were magnificent. The weather conditions clearly helped but I’m confident they would beat half a dozen teams in League One.
“You’ve got to look at the traits of character and the fact is with 20 minutes Siddal were winning and we pulled through.
“We’ve going to face a lot of challenges this season when the conditions aren’t right and some other aspects of the game aren’t going in our favour, and we will remember a challenge like this.”
Courtesy of the PRESS ASSOCIATION
1 Quentin Laulu Togaga’e
2 Jonny Pownall
4 Craig Hall (C)
3 Greg Worthington
15 Ryan Burroughs
6 Blake Wallace
7 Rhys Jacks
19 Steve Crossley
9 Bob Beswick
29 Jake Emmitt
11 Andrew Dixon
17 Richard Whiting
13 Jack Bussey
Subs (All used)
8 Fuifui Moimoi
12 James Laithwaite
21 Adam Sidlow
16 Shaun Pick
Siddal: 30′ Blackburn G. (Penalty Goal)
Wolfpack: 36′ Burroughs R. (Try)
Siddal: 41′ Ambler G. (Try)
Wolfpack: 48′ Worthington G. (Try)
Wolfpack: 60′ Sidlow A. (Try)
Wolfpack 60′ Hall C. (Conversion Goal)