FEATHERSTONE ROVERS 16 – 24 TORONTO WOLFPACK
Toronto Wolfpack moved to second place in the Betfred Championship, turning in an outstanding team performance to run out worthy winners at Featherstone Rovers and in doing so handing the West Yorkshire side their first home defeat of the season.
The Wolfpack made it five consecutive wins and leapfrogged both Rovers and London Broncos on the table after a successful Good Friday outing. The result set up a mouth-watering top of the table clash with Toulouse Olympique in France on Monday.
Toronto turned out a patched up side, with a number of changes for the third week running, but handed an exciting debut to new recruit Chase Stanley in the centres and welcomed back Blake Wallace and Jonny Pownall from injury.
All played their part in a terrific display, particularly in defence, as the Wolfpack held Featherstone to just three tries, two of which were scored in the final five minutes of the game.
Rovers have averaged over 40 points a game so far in 2018 but really struggled to breakdown the Pack’s rock solid defence, which stood up to the task for large periods on the goal line despite plenty of possession and position for the home side.
Coupled with their defence, it was a controlled performance with ball in hand and the Wolfpack had a 16-point haul from Ryan Brierley and a brace of tries from Rich Whiting to thank for their victory.
What was encouraging for the men from Canada was the performance of Gareth O’Brien. Playing only his second game in Toronto colours, the skilful fullback was outstanding in attack and defence. He snuffed out countless difficult kicks and asked questions of Rovers in possession in the 65 minutes he was on the field.
Speaking after the game, Wolfpack Head Coach Rowley was delighted with another huge win and highlighted the spirit and togetherness of his players in the face of adversity. He said:
“That was a significant victory for us. We had some tough calls go against us but the effort from both teams was tremendous.
“We’ve got a good circle of trust and everyone here wants to play for Toronto Wolfpack. We came here and dug in to do the job, it was a fantastic effort from all our boys.
“We’ve got as tough a schedule as anyone but we’ll get on with it and get ready to go again against Toulouse on Monday.”
Featherstone had early back-to-back sets in the opposition half, which they converted into a penalty goal from Martyn Ridyard. After missing his first attempt, the stand off made no mistake with his second to give Rovers the early advantage.
Toronto struggled to get into their rhythm in the opening exchanges as the hosts flew out of the blocks with some tenacious defence. This was matched in kind by the Wolfpack, who repeatedly turned Rovers away with some sterling defence of their own, answering repeated tests on their try line.
After being on the back foot for much of the opening quarter, a rare foray into Featherstone’s half brought first points for the Wolfpack.
A teasing kick through by Brierley bounced off the post and bobbled around in the in goal, before it was grounded by Brierley himself. He converted his own try to give the visitors the lead.
A fiery scuffle directly under the Wolfpack posts controversially brought another penalty for Rovers, which Ridyard kicked to close the gap to two.
With emotions running high, Toronto responded in ideal fashion with their second try. After Featherstone had failed to deal with a kick off, Toronto shifted the ball to the right and former Rover Rich Whiting crashed over to extend the Wolfpack’s lead.
Whiting made it two tries in two minutes as he climbed high to take Josh McCrone’s cross-field kick for a fine score to put Toronto out to a two score advantage on the half hour mark.
Featherstone ended the first half with more sets on the Wolfpack line, but the visitor’s defence was once again resolute and repelled Rovers at every opportunity to ensure the hosts remained without a try at half time.
Toronto blew a golden opportunity to post an early score in the second half but Andy Ackers, having done the hard work making the break up field, chose the wrong option with the pass and let the home side off the hook.
The visitors were made to rue that missed chance as Rovers struck for their first try of the game. A good shift play down the right saw top try scorer Luke Briscoe barge his way over with three defenders in attendance to score in his tenth consecutive game and bring Featherstone back into the contest.
Having struggled to gain any field position to start the second half, Toronto worked their way up field and earned a penalty for a late hit on O’Brien and Brierley stepped up to nudge the Wolfpack out to a ten point advantage.
Toronto’s defensive metal was up to the task again; a fantastic Ackers tackle denied a certain try to Matty Wildie and the Wolfpack made it a twelve point turnaround with a length of the field try.
The outstanding O’Brien sliced through Rovers’ defence on the right before drawing and passing to the supporting Brierley to streak away for his second to wrap the game up for the visitors.
O’Brien was withdrawn minutes later with a head knock which saw Wallace return to action at fullback for the final quarter of an hour. Toronto looked certain to score again through Pownall, who supported a Liam Kay break, but was dragged to the floor by chasing defenders just a few yards short of the line.
The resulting penalty kick for holding down hit the post from Brierley and Featherstone showed terrific spirit to respond with two late consolation tries to Misi Taulapapa and a second to Briscoe down either flank. Ridyard couldn’t convert either score to see Toronto hold on to an eight point lead and run out deserved winners.
Air Transat 1st Star: Gareth O’Brien tidied up countless times at the back for Toronto and marshalled the defence well. He was a constant threat with the ball and made a terrific break to set up Ryan Brierley’s second try to take the game away from Featherstone.
Air Transat 2nd Star: Ryan Brierley
Air Transat 3rd Star: Ashton Sims
1 Ian Hardman (C)
5 Luke Briscoe
20 Josh Hardcastle
29 Harry Newman
4 Misi Taulapapa
6 Martyn Ridyrd
19 Tom Holmes
15 Gareth Hock
9 Keal Carlisle
12 John Davies
11 Connor Farrell
13 James Lockwood
Subs (all used)
14 Matty Wildie
16 Frankie Mariano
17 Luke Cooper
22 Sam Brookes
Tries: Briscoe (50, 77), Taulapapa (75)
Goals: Ridyard 2/6
31 Gareth O’Brien
2 Jonny Pownall
33 Chase Stanley (D)
3 Greg Worthington
5 Liam Kay
6 Josh McCrone (C)
7 Ryan Brierley
29 Jake Emmitt
14 Andy Ackers
10 Ashton Sims
13 Jack Bussey
22 Richard Whiting
28 Sam Hopkins
Subs (all used)
8 Jack Buchanan
15 Adam Sidlow
16 Reni Maitua
17 Blake Wallace
Tries: Brierley (19, 60), Whiting (26, 29)
Goals: Brierley 4/6
Penalty count: 16-12
Referee: M Griffiths
Half time: 4-16
Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-6, 4-6, 4-10, 4-16, 8-16, 8-18, 8-24, 12-24, 16-24