Match Preview by Matthew Shaw of League Express
Match Date: Sunday 9th April 2017
Time: 2:00PM BST/9:00AM EDT
Venue: The Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster
A clash between two unbeaten teams takes place this Sunday as Toronto head to Doncaster for their toughest test yet in League 1 action. Here’s everything you need to know about this weekend’s opponents.
Doncaster is a town based in South Yorkshire, 23 miles north-east of Sheffield.
Despite being a market town with a population of around 110,000, Doncaster has many impressive facilities, including its own airport that is linked with Sheffield and a railway station with a high-speed connection to London. It also boasts several impressive sporting facilities, including Doncaster Racecourse, the home of some big meetings in the horse racing calendar, and The Dome, a public facility that has been used to stage big tournaments.
But perhaps its most impressive facility is the Keepmoat Stadium, the home of this weekend’s opponents.
The £32 million pound complex was opened in 2007 and has been home to the club ever since. With a capacity of over 15,000, the town’s soccer team also play there, while there is also a smaller, 500-seat stadium that features a six-lane running track.
The club itself is one of the more recent members of the European league structure, having been founded in 1951.
However, the original club was in fact liquidated in 1995 and the ‘Doncaster Dragons’ were subsequently created and admitted into the bottom division.
Since then they briefly used the ‘Lakers’ moniker before reverting simply to Doncaster RLFC.
Following promotion to the Championship in 2012, Doncaster enjoyed their finest year since liquidation. Under the guidance of Paul Cooke, a legendary halfback who is now an assistant coach at Super League side Leigh Centurions, they finished fourth in the second division against the odds.
However, Cooke would leave and the club subsequently suffered relegation back to League 1.
This season has seen Gary Thornton’s side start well and they are currently unbeaten in League 1 competition.
Paul Rowley could hand debuts to six-time Grand Final winner Ryan Bailey and hooker Sean Penkywicz after naming the pair in his 19-man squad.
Bailey agreed to join the club this week, and the front-rower goes straight into contention, six months after his last game, which was for Warrington in the 2016 Grand Final defeat to Wigan Warriors.
Iconic forward Fuifui MoiMoi also returns to the squad after completing his three-match suspension following his dismissal against Siddal in the Challenge Cup, while Greg Worthington also returns to the squad following injury. There is also a recall for Jack Bussey.
The five men moving out of the squad are Daniel Fleming, Ryan Burroughs, Shaun Pick, Tom Dempsey and Toby Everett.
Wolfpack 19-man squad: Quentin Laulu-Togagae, Jonny Pownall, Craig Hall, Liam Kay, Blake Wallace, Rhys Jacks, Bob Beswick, Andrew Dixon, James Laithwaite, Gary Wheeler, Richard Whiting, Steve Crossley, Adam Sidlow, Jake Emmitt, Greg Worthington, Fui Fui Moi Moi, Jack Bussey, Sean Penkywicz, Dan Fleming.
Doncaster will welcome back Jordie Hedges and Jordan Howden following suspension and injury respectively. However, winger Richie Barnett is a major doubt with an ankle injury.
The Wolfpack have started the season superbly, with the performances of their back line a particular positive in the early stages of the campaign.
Wingers Liam Kay and Jonny Pownall have been in devastating form so far as they have racked up the tries, and playing on the pristine conditions at the Keepmoat Stadium, Toronto will be able to demonstrate their typically expansive and exciting brand of rugby.
However, the battle of the forwards will be key to the final outcome of the match. Doncaster have one the most dangerous packs in the division and they boast plenty of experience that will match that of the Wolfpack’s senior forwards. Most of the Doncaster players will have played against their Wolfpack counterparts many times over the years, which will result in an intriguing battle.
Doncaster coach Gary Thornton wants to see his side put in an 80-minute performance, as opposed to their recent efforts where they have failed to be consistent for the entire duration of a game.
“They’re certainly the team to beat, that’s for sure,” said Thornton of the Wolfpack.
“We’ve had a great start but I don’t think we’ve been at our best. We’ve still got more to offer, that’s for sure. We’ve been at our best in parts but then pretty poor and let teams come at us. I’m looking for a more consistent performance over 80 minutes.”