SHEFFIELD EAGLES 10 – 44 TORONTO WOLFPACK
Toronto Wolfpack’s season seems to be gathering some real momentum as they spoiled the Sheffield Eagles party to make it back-to-back wins for the first time this season. After putting Swinton to the sword last time out, the Wolfpack travelled to Sheffield to take on the Eagles at Olympic Legacy Park and it marked the first game played at the ground since the South Yorkshire outfit had moved back to the Steel City.
The mayor of Sheffield was in attendance to mark the occasion in an afternoon that brought the two cities together in a real celebration of rugby league and it’s return to the city of Sheffield, whilst also making special reference to the Eagles first ever clash with north America’s only transatlantic professional sports team.
Toronto were boosted by the return of Nick Rawsthorne and Jack Bussey from injury whilst Quentin Laulu Togaga’e made his eagerly awaited return to Sheffield to face his old club for the first time. All three played their part in an eventual dominant display from the visitors, who ran in eight tries in another strong attacking display.
Captain Josh McCrone turned in a man of the match performance in the unfamiliar position of dummy half. Having been asked to deputise on the run due to an injury to experienced hooker Bob Beswick early on, the Australian orchestrated things well in the middle and facilitated the control Toronto were able to gain in the game. This was mainly thanks to the dominance their forward pack imposed after a disjointed opening quarter littered with errors.
Head Coach Paul Rowley was contenpt with his players after posting another heavy score line but admitted he was frustrated by the standard of the game at times. He said:
“Obviously I’m pleased to get the two points but I thought it was a very scrappy game in parts. The rucks for both sides were ugly at times and very slow and some of the skill from both sides contributed to that too, but overall chalking another win off is good.
“The way the game was controlled was pretty inconsistent but having said that we’re putting teams to the sword. We put a big emphasis on being patient and composed after half time and we did that so it was a good lesson for us.”
Rowley highlighted to value of his captain’s performance, suggesting that McCrone would benefit from the unplanned stint in the middle. He continued:
“We lost Bob (Beswick) which was disappointing. We had the plan for him to play 80 but Josh (McCrone) stepped up and played well. That hard work will have done him some good and it was good for him to be out there in that situation.
“We had Blake (Wallace) on the bench who came on and proved to be very valuable again this week, so we have no dramas with that arrangement on the field.”
The Wolfpack looked shaky early on, coming up with a number of errors in the face of Sheffield’s enthusiastic defence and were forced to rejig the line-up inside the opening ten minutes.
Both sides traded chances to score; with Sheffield squandering a break away free play from James Bentley and Joe Westerman losing the ball reaching for the line for the Wolfpack, with neither team able to find that killer play in a tense opening quarter of an hour.
Toronto found themselves on the wrong side of the penalty count initially but their aggressive defence forced more errors from the Eagles to ensure they kept their line intact and they responded impressively to take the lead.
After receiving a set inside the Sheffield half, the Wolfpack exploited space down the blind side, with terrific work from Blake Wallace and QLT putting Liam Kay over on the left.
Toronto had established a clear physical dominance in the middle and made huge metres down field forcing the Eagles to play from deep in their own half and this soon brought a second try to substitute Rich Whiting.
Nice build up play from Adam Sidlow and QLT saw the fullback grounded five metres out and quick hands from McCrone and Wallace put the second rower over to extend Toronto’s lead to ten approaching half time.
The Wolfpack continued to play up tempo to keep the pressure on Sheffield and struck again a few minutes later though Sidlow, who carried a few defenders over the line to score next to the posts after Toronto had kept the ball alive. The third score seemingly putting the visitors in complete control.
Bussey thought he had himself a try just before half time as he dived on a loose ball in the in goal however, he was ruled to have been offside from the original kick. Sheffield then went up the other end to score themselves to reduce the arears.
A repeat set gave the hosts prime field position and a determined run from skipper Matty James saw him beat a defender and power over the line to open his team’s account and, despite Oscar Thomas missing a last second penalty from half way, the hosts finished the half strongly and remained in touching distance.
The second half exploded into life. A melee following a shoulder charge from Nabil Djalout on Jonny Pownall earned Toronto a penalty and they wasted no time in converting it as McCrone’s vision on the left again put Rawsthorne into a yawning gap for the Wolfpack’s fourth of the afternoon.
The visitors had seemingly picked up where they left off after half time. After forcing back to back repeat sets on the Sheffield line, a delicate kick through from Whiting was snapped up by Wallace for a try under the posts to put the Wolfpack out to an insurmountable lead.
The Wolfpack made it three in the second half by the hour mark; Pownall raced away untouched off the back of a poor Eagles error in their own 20 as the score line started to become ugly for the home side.
The procession continued through Pownall, who grabbed his second a few minutes later off the back of a terrific offload from QLT on the right and the Eagles misery was compounded by the sin binning of James for a late hit on Ryan Brierley to see them play out the rest of the contest with twelve men. The man advantage took its toll on the resulting set with Toronto cracking the 40-point mark thanks to second try from Whiting, who barged his way over off a Brierley pass.
The spirit and effort from Sheffield had been evident all afternoon and they grabbed themselves a well worked consolation try to Iliess Macani; the winger touched down on the right off the back of good shift play from Cory Aston to ensure the Eagles had the final say.
All in all it was another successful day for the Wolfpack, who now have real confidence going into their first Challenge Cup tie of the season next week against Kells.
Air Transat 1st Star: Josh McCrone showed many of the qualities that made him such a good signing for the club. His ability to adapt his game under pressure, slotting into the hooking roll for 70 plus minutes didn’t seem to faze him. The Australian worked tirelessly in defence coupled with the leadership and smarts to cause endless headaches for the Eagles, having a hand in a number of Wolfpack tries.
Airtransat 2nd Star: Rich Whiting
Airtransat 3rd Star: Jack Bussey
1 Ryan Millar
24 Garry Lo
30 Matty Costello
25 Jake Spedding
2 Iliess Macani
6 Oscar Thomas
23 Cory Aston
8 Mark Offerdahl
14 Greg Burns
12 Shaun Pick
13 Matty James (C)
26 James Bentley
9 Matty Fozard
Subs (all used)
4 Joshua Toole
11 Nabil Djalout
16 Kieran Moran
10 Joe Magrin
Tries: James (38), Macani (77)
Goals: Thomas 1/2, Aston 0/1
Dismissals: James (sin bin)
1 Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e
2 Jonny Pownall
3 Greg Worthington
23 Nick Rawsthorne
5 Liam Kay
7 Ryan Brierley
6 Josh McCrone (C)
8 Jack Buchanan
9 Bob Beswick
10 Ashton Sims
11 Andrew Dixon
16 Reni Maitua
12 Joe Westerman
Subs (all used)
13 Jack Bussey
17 Blake Wallace
15 Adam Sidlow
22 Richard Whiting
Tries: Kay (20), Whiting (29, 73), Sidlow (32), Rawsthorne (45), Wallace (55), Pownall (60, 65)
Goals: Brierley 6/8
Penalty count: 8-11
Referee: G Dolan
Half time: 6-16
Scoring sequence: 0-4, 0-10, 0-16, 6-16, 6-22, 6-28, 6-34, 6-38, 6-44, 10-44.