Match Preview: Toronto Wolfpack vs Workington Town

Match preview by Doug Thomson, League Express

Match Date: Sunday 18th June, 2017

Time: 15:00 BST (10:00 AM EDT)

Venue: Derwent Park, Workington

CUMBRIAN CHALLENGE

Toronto Wolfpack went to South Wales to make it ten wins out of ten at the expense of the Ironmen – and West Cumbria is their latest League One destination.

There are five more matches before the division splits, and while the table-topping Wolfpack are well on course, Workington Town are scrapping it out for a place in the Super Eights.

They go into action on Sunday in sixth, but are only above ninth-placed Newcastle Thunder thanks to a superior points difference.

That provides even more incentive to become the first League One team to topple Toronto, who have conceded fewer than nine points per game on average.

It’s quite a test for the home team!

WORKINGTON

Situated in North-West England at the mouth of the River Derwent (which gives its name to the Rugby League ground) this is a place which has long had to stand up for itself.

Between AD 79 and AD 122, the settlement, which was to grow into a coastal town which now has a population of 25,000, came under attack from both the Scots and the Irish.

Workington used to be in the historic county of Cumberland, but was incorporated into the newly-created Cumbria in 1974.

It might not have quite the maritime history of neighbouring Whitehaven, but Workington’s docks and the proximity of a number of coalfields played an important role in the growth of the town’s main industry, steel production.

Historically, trains ran smoothly thanks to this outpost – it was once said Workington rails ‘held the world together’ – but in more recent times, the steelworks have suffered.

Now many work down the coast thanks to the nuclear industry in and around Sellafield, while the well-known haulage firm Eddie Stobart has a depot in the town.

In 2009, Workington, from where the fells of the Lake District can be seen, unhappily hit the national headlines when several bridges were damaged or destroyed by the Derwent flooding.

WORKINGTON TOWN

It may seem hard to believe now, but Workington Town once bossed Rugby League and in 1996 the club was an inaugural member of Super League.

On its formation in 1944, Town had a close association with Workington’s soccer club, which played in the Football League from 1951-77, and was based at their Borough Park ground.

Town’s greatest achievements came under the guidance of Welsh centre Gus Risman, who was an inaugural member of the Rugby League Hall of Fame.

As player-coach, the former Salford and Great Britain star led Workington to the title in 1951, when Warrington were beaten in the play-off final at Maine Road, Manchester, and Challenge Cup glory the following year, when Featherstone Rovers were defeated at Wembley in the first final to be televised.

Workington also reached the Challenge Cup finals of 1955 and 1958.

Disagreements between Risman and Workington FC manager Bill Shankly, whose later achievements with Liverpool are legendary, led to Town building their own ground, Derwent Park, and leaving nearby Borough Park in 1956.

In the second half of the seventies, Town appeared in four Lancashire Cup finals in as many years, lifting the trophy in 1977.

When Super League was set up, controversial proposals for a merger with Barrow, Carlisle and Whitehaven were resisted, and Workington went it alone in the top flight, only to finish bottom and suffer relegation. Since then it’s been second or third-tier rugby, with Town relegated to League One last year.

Current coach Dave Clark, the former Barrow player and boss, has been at the Town helm since October, when he succeeded Phil Veivers.

KEY BATTLES

Both sides were in action in Wales last time out. While Toronto crushed the Ironmen 66-0 in the South, Workington won 25-24 at North Wales Crusaders.

Dave Clark’s side, skippered by long-serving centre James Mossop, showed character to come from behind and clinch victory with a last-gasp drop-goal from stand-off Carl Forber.

Toronto coach Paul Rowley played alongside Forber at Leigh, so he will have inside knowledge of the threat posed by the versatile 32-year-old, who started out at St Helens.

Forber has formed an effective partnership with Jamie Doran in the halves this season.

But boss Clark is without hooker Callum Phillips, who is starting a two-match suspension.

Town forwards Phil Joseph and Stuart Howarth have plenty of experience, while coach Clark recently recruited youngsters Liam Byrne and Joe Ryan on loan from Wigan and Warrington respectively as cover for prop Steve Scholey, who is out with a thumb injury.

Wolfpack fans will be hoping for another influential performance by centre Greg Worthington, who grabbed a hat-trick of tries in South Wales.

Workington’s top tryscorer is winger Joe Hambley, with ten, while captain Mossop will be aiming to cross the whitewash for the seventh match in a row.