Toronto Wolfpack have enjoyed a terrific debut season in the Betfred Championship to date. This week, as the Pack prepare to take on Sheffield Eagles at Lamport Stadium, we see the fruits of the club’s labour, as victory would confirm the first piece of silverware of 2018.
With a 7-point lead at the top of the table with only four regular season games remaining, triumph over the 9th placed Eagles would hand the Wolfpack the Championship League Leaders Shield with three games to spare and would mark a fantastic achievement for the Canadian venture.
After being newly promoted as League 1 Champions in 2017, Toronto could earn their third piece of silverware in under two seasons.
Having lost their only game in the league back in round four to London Broncos, the Pack have been unstoppable since and are looking for a big performance to register their 16th straight win in the Championship and kick start the celebrations for their loyal fans a few weeks before the Super 8s competition.
The anticipation is palpable this week, following the Wolfpack’s third win of the season over Championship powerhouses Leigh Centurions last time out, but there is still very much a job to be done for the 17 men taking to the field, with a resilient and tough Sheffield side in their way.
By contrast, the Eagles have endured a difficult season. With only five wins this year, the South Yorkshire side have struggled for consistency and were on the end of a comfortable 44-10 defeat by the Wolfpack when the two sides last met in the Steel City.
Nonetheless, Sheffield have plenty of talent and experience in their side and are aided by the dual registration system they share with current Super League leaders St Helens, making them a dangerous side to play.
The Eagles will be coming with a point to prove. Already confirmed in the Championship Shield competition after the regular season, Mark Aston’s side head to Canada with nothing to lose and will be looking to make a real statement by upsetting the Wolfpack on their own patch for the first time.
Toronto were exceptional in the first half last week against the Centurions but had to withstand a second half fight back after allowing the visitors back into the game. Wolfpack boss Rowley was keen to highlight some key areas for improvement, heading into another tricky game this Saturday. He said:
“Our mentality was slightly off in defence. Our contact was good when it needed to be but overall our work ethic wasn’t where it should be but it’s good that that has happened now so that we can learn and improve going forward.
“Sheffield won’t come and lie down, they are a dangerous side. Their old campaigner Menzie Yere is really destructive on the edge and young half back Cory Aston is Super League quality.
“There is a little bit of the unknown about their side, we’ll see what they turn up with and get ready for a tough game.”
The match looks set to be played in front of a big and vocal home crowd, with big game player Ashton Sims looking in line to make his return from injury after three weeks out with a calf problem whilst Adam Higson is fit again after injuring his shoulder in the Challenge Cup defeat at Warrington.
Rowley was happy with the healthiness of his current squad, allowing him the fortune of rotating a few players at this stage of the season as the Wolfpack look in good shape to make a real assault on the Super 8s Qualifiers, with a win this weekend guaranteeing them the added bonus of four more home games at the Den. He explained:
“We’ll probably give Matty Russell, Cory Paterson and Jack Buchanan a break this week.
“Ashton Sims will be back in contention and Rich Whiting will feature again. We’ve got Adam Higson back who will have a chance to play, as will Nick Rawsthorne.
“It’s really important to have a fit squad at this time of the year. Touch wood we remain healthy but having the luxury to not have to risk players is really good for me and the players approaching the 8s.”
19 Man Squad:
3 Greg Worthington
5 Liam Kay
7 Ryan Brierley
8 Jack Buchanan
9 Bob Beswick
10 Ashton Sims
11 Andrew Dixon
14 Andy Ackers
15 Adam Sidlow
17 Blake Wallace
19 Adam Higson
21 Olsi Krasniqi
22 Rich Whiting
23 Nick Rawsthorne
28 Sam Hopkins
29 Jake Emmitt
31 Gareth O’Brien
32 Darcy Lussick
33 Chase Stanley