Match Preview by Matthew Shaw of League Express
Match Date: Saturday 20th May 2017
Kick-off Time: 16.30 EDT (21:30 BST)
Venue: Lamport Stadium, Toronto
It’s the big one!
After months of anticipation, Toronto Wolfpack and Barrow Raiders will meet in what promises to be one of the most unmissable fixtures in the Rugby League calendar this year.
The two clubs have dispatched of all before them ahead of the clash and, after seven rounds of competition, they both stand undefeated at the top of League 1 with 14 points each. The Wolfpack are top of the table, but only because they have a greater points difference than the Raiders. But on Saturday something has to give.
The Raiders play in Barrow-in-Furness, which is situated on the North West coast of England and in close proximity to several beautiful locations, including the world famous Lake District which attracts thousands of tourists a year with its numerous lakes, mountains and picturesque views.
At the tip of the Furness peninsula, Barrow is bordered by Morecambe Bay, the Duddon Estuary and the Irish Sea.
In the Middle Ages the Furness peninsula was controlled by the Cistercian monks of Furness Abbey, which was built on the orders of King Stephen in 1123. Soon after the abbey’s foundation the monks discovered iron ore deposits, which would later provide the basis for the Furness economy
Shipbuilding would later become the main industry in Barrow, with the Vickers company the main employer. The Royal Navy’s first submarine, Holland 1, was built in 1901 and by the start of the First World War in 1914 the UK had the most advanced submarine fleet in the world, with 94 per cent of it constructed by Vickers in Barrow.
The UK’s first nuclear-powered submarine, HMS Dreadnought was constructed in Barrow in 1960. HMS Resolution, the Swiftsure, Trafalgar and Vanguard-class submarines all followed, armed with Trident II missiles as part of the British government’s Trident nuclear programme.
Barrow was originally a part of the ancient county of Lancashire, but was incorporated into Cumbria in 1974.
In 2011, Barrow’s population was 57,000, the second largest urban area in Cumbria after Carlisle. Natives of Barrow, as well as the local dialect, are known as Barrovian.
Tourism in the area is rising, with one of the most popular attractions being the ruins of Furness Abbey.
The rugby club has played a prominent role in the community since it was founded in 1875.
They switched from playing Rugby Union to Rugby League in April 1897 after a unanimous vote by club members.
Their current Craven Park stadium was built in 1931, largely as a result of the efforts of supporters, 500 of whom volunteered to construct the ground.
In 1938 they reached the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, but lost 7-4.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that they enjoyed their finest period. In 1955 they won the Challenge Cup for the first and only time in their history, defeating Workington Town under the captaincy of Willie Horne, who now has a statue standing outside Craven Park and is a member of the Rugby League Hall of Fame.
They reached the Cup Final again in 1057, but lost 9-7 to Leeds. Things went downhill from there and the club has never hit the same heights again.
One of the rare high points for the club was in 2009 when they won the Championship Grand Final against Halifax. However, they were relegated two years later after being deducted 29 points for being found guilty of breaking rules over payments to players, which was one of the lowest points in the club’s history.
But now, under the guidance of their coach Paul Crarey, who is in his second spell with the club, 2017 seems to be a year of revival for the Raiders and they arrive at Lamport Stadium undefeated in the league, although last Sunday they found Super League club Leeds Rhinos far too strong for them in the Challenge Cup, going down 72-10 at Headingley.
These two teams possess the best offensive and defensive records in the entire competition.
Unlike many other games, Toronto will need to be on their game all over the field and nullify the significantly strong threats the Raiders bring to the table.
The Raiders have the second highest points scorer in the competition, with halfback Lewis Charnock second only to the Wolfpack captain Craig Hall in having scored 92 points from 34 goals and six tries. Other players to watch out for include forward Jarrad Stack, who has long stood out at this level, while fullback Ryan Fieldhouse offers a fine attacking threat from the rear of the field.
The Wolfpack will need to bring their a-game in attack. Barrow had won 13 straight matches before losing to Leeds in the Challenge Cup on Sunday, and in seven league games they have conceded just over 12 points a game on average.
It promises to be an epic contest.