Match report by Matthew Shaw
Toronto Wolfpack issued their biggest statement of intent in the club’s short history with a terrific 30-26 victory over Championship high-flyers London Broncos.
The unnerving boot of captain Craig Hall played a big part in Toronto’s victory, as his conversion rate of five goals in six attempts edged the Wolfpack to a famous triumph against higher-ranked opponents.
Paul Rowley’s Wolfpack produced a mesmeric 60-minute display to storm into a 30-12 lead, and although London rallied late on and threatened to produce a comeback, Toronto held on to dump the 1999 finalists out of the famous competition, which was first contested in 1896.
The significance of this latest victory should not be underestimated. London finished second in the Championship last season, the second tier of the European league structure, and defeated Super League outfit Salford Red Devils after advancing to the Qualifiers.
However, the Wolfpack outplayed them on their own patch, an even more impressive feat as their facility in Ealing, West London, uses a synthetic pitch, quite unlike the regular grass surface the majority of clubs play on.
But Toronto quickly adapted to the unfamiliar surroundings, which were quite unlike the boggy conditions in Whitehaven the week before and where the Wolfpack started their Challenge Cup journey, Siddal.
A blistering start saw the visitors race into a 10-0 lead within seven minutes. Craig Hall and Liam Kay both scored for the third consecutive game, with captain Hall adding a conversion to Kay’s try.
London responded through the enigmatic halfback Jarrod Sammut, who raced on to a kick from halfback partner William Barthau.
The two teams went toe-to-toe for the next 15 minutes, with the only points coming from the boot of Hall. But crucially, Wolfpack scored the next try as Jack Bussey, who joined Toronto from London in the off-season, haunted his former club as he crashed over the line from close range.
Hall’s conversion gave Toronto an 18-6 half-time advantage.
With a two-score cushion, the next score threatened to be crucial.
Ominously, it was the higher-ranked opponents who scored it, as Barthau pierced the Wolfpack defence with a blistering break from Matty Garside’s offload.
But all that did was re-energise Paul Rowley’s men, who all but sealed their place in the fifth round.
Jonny Pownall restored the two-try advantage after a fine passage of play by Gary Wheeler, and minutes later Pownall’s former Leigh team-mate Kay broke away down the other wing, and his inside pass found Canadian international Rhys Jacks to score under the sticks.
Hall’s double success with the boot gave Toronto a 30-12 lead with just 21 minutes remaining.
To their credit, London didn’t give in and almost produced an unthinkable comeback with three tries in the final ten minutes. Sammut, Elliot Kear and former Challenge Cup finalist Kieran Dixon all scored, but with only one successful conversion from the final three attempts, Toronto picked up the ticket for the next round, where they could face Super League opposition in a competitive game for the first time.
Tries: Sammut (2), Barthau, Dixon, Kear
Goals: Sammut (3)
Tries: Hall, Kay, Bussey, Pownall, Jacks
Goals: Hall (5)
Full-time: 26 – 30
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas
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Images From The Match
This match report has been presented in association with the English weekly newspaper League Express.