It’s crunch time for Toronto as the third placed Wolfpack face off against top of the pile Salford in round four of the ‘Super 8s The Qualifiers’.
After an improved showing earned Toronto victory over London in Canada, their second in the posteason competition, the Championship League Leaders travel to Manchester in the North of England for one of their toughest challenges in the schedule.
The Red Devils, despite a disappointing regular season, have been in terrific form recently and have won their last four games, including three comfortable wins in the Qualifiers, to sit outright leaders and are a good bet to cement their place in Super League for 2019.
By contrast, the highly motivated Wolfpack have had tremendous success in the regular season but are now looking to peak at the vital moment. A scalp at the AJ Bell Stadium would draw Toronto level on points with Salford and would go a long way to consolidating their chances of an automatic promotion spot with just three games remaining.
This away trip is Toronto’s penultimate visit to UK shores and is the first of two extremely challenging outings on the road, with 2017 Super League Champions Leeds Rhinos on the bill in the final week of the Qualifiers.
Victory over Salford would set the Pack up for back-to-back home games and would put them in the drivers seat to achieve a top three finish but it certainly won’t be easy against a very strong side.
Ian Watson’s men have been hugely benefitted by some late season signings to bolster their quest for survival. Young Australian scrum half Jackson Hastings has been superb for Salford since arriving a month ago and partners the ever dangerous Robert Lui extremely well.
Throw into the mix the addition of hooker Joey Lussick, who will face off against old brother and Wolfpack front rower Darcy Lussick, and a very accomplished attacking team will challenge every aspect of Toronto’s metal this weekend.
Looking ahead to the game, Assistant Coach Simon Finnigan was buoyed by the strides taken by his players against the Broncos but admitted there would be further improvements needed in order to overhaul Salford. He said:
“I thought the first 30 minutes against London was very good. We were pretty clinical and managed the game well through good yardage and defence.
“The way we tried to manage the game late on wasn’t very smart. We were better for longer periods than against Hull KR, which was pleasing, but there are still plenty of things to work on for us.
“We’ll have to be better again this week. Salford are the form team and are undefeated in these Qualifiers. If you look at all their games, they have been by far the better side so like last week we’re coming up against a very confident team.”
Finnigan was well aware of the threats of the Red Devils, highlighting the need for the players to be at the top of their game across the board but was confident in the side’s ability to do so. He said:
“They have some very good players across the board. They have great half backs; Robert Lui has been outstanding for them all year and Niall Evalds is very sharp at the back with plenty of strike.
“Having said that they’re not unbeatable. They’re in this competition for a reason and although they’re in form we have some dangerous players ourselves.”
After coming through last week with a clean bill of health, Toronto will be sure to select their strongest side once again, with the continuity in the line up a real bonus for Finnigan. He concluded:
“We have a healthy squad to pick from. We might make a couple of tweaks but there won’t be any major changes to the side this week.”
19 man squad:
4 Gary Wheeler
6 Josh McCrone
8 Jack Buchanan
9 Bob Beswick
10 Ashton Sims
11 Andrew Dixon
14 Andy Ackers
15 Adam Sidlow
17 Blake Wallace
21 Olsi Krasniqi
22 Rich Whiting
23 Nick Rawsthorne
24 Cory Paterson
29 Jake Emmitt
30 Matty Russell
31 Gareth O’Brien
32 Darcy Lussick
33 Chase Stanley
34 Mason Caton-Brown