Match Preview: Super 8s Toronto Wolfpack vs Barrow Raiders

Match Preview by Doug Thomson, League Express
Match Date: Saturday, September 9th
Time: 4:30PM EDT (9:30PM BST)
Venue: Lamport Stadium, Toronto

CAN LATEST VISITORS SPOIL THE FUN?

It could be party time at the Lamport Stadium on Saturday as the Wolfpack chase the win which would seal League I title glory and automatic promotion to the Championship.

Paul Rowley’s side have the cushion of a further home game – against Doncaster on Saturday 16th September – but will want to get the job done as soon as possible and maintain their 100 percent record on home soil.

It’s the table-topping Wolfpack’s 10th match on their own turf, and second-placed Barrow Raiders become the first side to visit Toronto twice, having been beaten 70-2 in May, when visa issues meant they were without a number of regular players.

The Wolfpack’s attendance figures have been making the rest of the Rugby League world sit up and take notice, and it could well be that the previous highest figure, 7,522 against Newcastle Thunder a fortnight ago, is bettered.

Last week’s visitors Whitehaven made the Wolfpack work hard for a 36-18 victory, and it’s unlikely to be easy against Barrow, who beat Workington Town 36-14 to record a 17th win in 20 league games this year.

Third-placed Whitehaven are the only other side to have beaten Barrow, while Doncaster held them to a draw, meaning they are two league points behind Toronto, who have the advantage of a far superior points difference.

However Barrow know a win at the Lamport would set up a very interesting final round of the Super 8s (when they are at home to Keighley Cougars), and pile pressure on the Wolfpack as they prepare for that date with Doncaster.

BARROW

Close to the famous Lake District, Barrow is an isolated industrial town on England’s North-West coast with a population of 57,000.

It developed from a tiny 19th Century hamlet into what was once the biggest iron and steel centre in the world, as well as a major ship and submarine builder, in only 40 years.

The railway was introduced to carry iron ore, slate and limestone to a new deep-water port, and Barrow’s prosperity grew further with the emergence of the steel and shipbuilding industries.

The arrival of ambitious young speculator Henry Schneider signalled the start of Barrow’s success. He discovered large deposits of iron and erected blast furnaces, which by 1876, formed the world’s largest steelworks.

As the population grew, so did the town, which was laid out in wide, tree-lined streets by James Ramsden, who conceived the idea of the Barrow Shipbuilding Company, which became Vickers in 1897.

The First World War highlighted the importance of submarines, and Barrow became a specialist in building them, with its population peaking at 74,000 in 1931.

As iron and steel production slowed after the Second World War, Vickers became the town’s dominant employer and it is still the busiest shipyard in England, with the largest covered shipbuilding hall in Europe.

Several Royal Navy flagships, the vast majority of its nuclear submarines as well as numerous other naval vessels, ocean liners and oil tankers have been manufactured at the facility.

Barrow has also become a hub for energy generation and handling thanks partly to offshore wind farms, which form one of the highest concentrations of turbines in the world.

BARROW RAIDERS

Unlike Cumbrian rivals Workington Town, formed in 1945, and Whitehaven (1948), Barrow Raiders can be traced right back to the 19th Century.

The club was established in 1875, and in 1897, members voted to switch from Union to League, which had begun two years earlier.

Barrow have been based Craven Park, their third different home and located close to the town centre, since 1931, when the ground was built largely by volunteer supporters.

The 1937-38 campaign was memorable because Barrow reached the finals of both the Challenge and Lancashire Cups, losing narrowly to Salford and Warrington respectively, and attracted a record attendance of 21,651 for a league match against Salford.

The 1950s were were the club’s heyday. Captained by Willie Horne, Barrow made three more trips to Wembley for the Challenge Cup final. Defeats by Wigan in 1950-51 and Leeds in 1956-57 were separated by a 21-12 victory over Workington in 1954-55, when the Lancashire Cup was also lifted with a win over Oldham in the final.

Barrow’s fifth appearance at Wembley was in 1966-67. They were strongly tipped to win the Challenge Cup again, but were beaten 17-12 by Featherstone Rovers.

In 1978, Barrow transferred Great Britain forward Phil Hogan to Hull Kingston Rovers for a then-world record fee of £33,000.

The club last played in Rugby League’s top flight in 1990, and when Super League was set up six years later, resisted a proposal to merge with Whitehaven, Workington and Carlisle, who had been playing since 1981, to form a team to be called Cumbria.

The club did join forces with Carlisle in 1997, becoming Barrow Border Raiders and remaining at Craven Park (the word Border was dropped in 2002).

In the Super League era, Barrow have yo-yoed between Rugby League’s second and third tiers.

They were relegated from the Championship in 2014 and last year, missed out on promotion when beaten by Toulouse Olympique in the League 1 play-off final.
Barrow are coached by former player Paul Crarey, who is in his second spell at the Craven Park helm.

KEY BATTLES

It’s a coaching contest of two former hookers as the two Pauls, Rowley and Crarey, pit their wits against one anther.
Crarey has just been nominated for the League 1 Coach of the Year award for the second season running.

This match could come down to kicking as two of the division’s best with the boot, Wolfpack skipper Craig Hall and Barrow’s Lewis Charnock, meet up.

Hall has landed 154 goals (as well as scoring 24 tries) and former St Helens player Charnock 77.

Tough stand-off Jamie Dallimore and Charnock form a potentially potent partnership in the halves, and their Barrow teammate Nathan Mossop is a useful hooker.

While Wolfpack centre Hall and hooker Bob Bewick have both been shortlisted for the League 1 Player of the Year award, so too has Barrow prop Joe Bullock.

Crarey has other talented forwards in former Super League duo Oliver Wilkes and Martin Aspinwall, who both played under Wolfpack chief Rowley at Leigh Centurions.