TORONTO WOLFPACK 2 – 4 LONDON BRONCOS
It was tense, emotional and fiercely competitive but in the end it was heartbreak for Toronto Wolfpack, who were edged out in a try less Million Pound Game by London Broncos and missed out on the chance of promotion to Super League for 2019.
Defensive steel was the order of the day, with London managing to hold the Wolfpack out on numerous occasions, whilst only scoring two penalties themselves in a frantic end to end battle played in front of a record Lamport Stadium crowd of 9,266.
Toronto also defended manfully but will be ruing the multiple missed scoring opportunities that they couldn’t convert into points, which in the end cost them that final Super League spot.
Holding back bitter disappointment, Wolfpack boss Paul Rowley was magnanimous in defeat and praised London as worthy winners. He said:
“Credit to London, they were the better team. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that score line.
“London have had a great attitude every time they’ve come here and full credit to them. I can’t complement them enough and I wish them all the very best in Super League next year.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow this one but that is sport sometimes, we’ll sulk about it for a few days, but we’ll pick up and go again next year.”
London Head Coach Danny Ward struggled to find words for his side’s achievement after the game and was bursting with pride at overcoming the odds. He said:
“It’s unbelievable what we’ve done, I’m speechless. What an outstanding bunch of blokes and what a great day for rugby league in London.
“The players have worked so hard since day one of pre-season, we’ve not brought anyone in and have stuck by the young lads in this squad and I’m so happy for them.
“Defence wins competitions and ours was outstanding today. We could have been better in attack but I’m not going to complain too much, we can sit back and enjoy what we’ve achieved.”
The hosts had the perfect start denied within the opening minute. Josh McCrone looked to have bagged an early try following an error from London from a kick but the video referee deemed Gareth O’Brien to be offside and the score was ruled out.
The Broncos then enjoyed a glut of possession early in the game and, following three repeat sets, they opened the scoring with a penalty goal to Jarrod Sammut following a high shot on Ben Evans.
The first half was ferociously physical but lacked attacking composure, with heavy rain before kick off contributing to a number of errors and a lack of cohesion in attack from both camps.
Toronto defended well to repel the Broncos and sore two agonising chances go begging, with Mason Caton-Brown knocking on his own kick after kicking clear down field before McCrone just couldn’t quite get to Gary Wheeler’s chip through.
The frustrations of the first half for the hosts increased as substitute Andy Ackers was sin binned for a late hit on Eloi Pelissier to leave the Wolfpack with 12 men to finish the half.
The first half ended with some real end to end action, with London breaking down field on the back of a Toronto attack that broke down, but they too couldn’t come up with the right play to ensure a try-less first half.
Toronto came out after half time with more vigour but again had the try ruled out. Ashton Sims crashed over the line and looked to have scored but was ruled to have been held up by a trio of Broncos to maintain the visitor’s lead.
The Pack drew level through a penalty of their own from O’Brien, which he converted from 30 metres out.
The parity lasted a matter of seconds though, as Blake Wallace knocked on from the kick off and the resulting set brought another penalty for Sammut to slot over to edge the Broncos ahead once again.
Tensions were high with neither side wanting to make a costly error. The Wolfpack had the opportunity to tie the scores again, but O’Brien pulled a difficult penalty goal attempt wide from 40 metres out to keep the Broncos in front.
Toronto kept pressing but were sensationally held up over the line for a third time, this time Wallace wasn’t able to ground the ball in the in goal due to the attention from Alex Walker.
The hosts threw everything at London in the closing stages but the Broncos defence kept holding firm time and time again to send the men from the UK’s capital back to the top flight for the first time in four seasons.
Air Transat 1st Star: Alex Walker was the saviour in defence for the Broncos. The fullback was outstanding in defence and was instrumental in holding a Toronto player up over the line on three separate occasions so ensure the visitors kept their line intact.
Air Transat 2nd Star: Jarrod Sammut
Air Transat 3rd Star: Josh McCrone
31 Gareth O’Brien
34 Mason Caton-Brown
23 Nick Rawsthorne
4 Gary Wheeler
30 Matty Russell
6 Josh McCrone (C)
17 Blake Wallace
32 Darcy Lussick
9 Bob Beswick
10 Ashton Sims
11 Andrew Dixon
22 Rich Whiting
29 Jake Emmitt
Subs (all used)
8 Jack Buchanan
14 Andy Ackers
15 Adam Sidlow
19 Adam Higson
Goals: O’Brien 1/2
Dismissals: Ackers (sin bin)
14 Alex Walker
2 Rhys Williams
1 Elliott Kear
3 Ben Hellewell
5 Kieran Dixon
12 Jay Pitts (C)
7 Jarrod Sammut
18 Ben Evans
30 Eloi Pelissier
10 Mark Ioane
16 Matty Gee
21 Will Lovell
26 Daniel Hindmarsh
Subs (all used)
8 Tom Spencer
15 Eddie Battye
23 Robert Butler
25 Matt Davies
Goals: Sammut 2/2
Penalty count: 9-10
Referee: Chris Kendall
Half time: 0-2
Scoring sequence: 0-2, 2-2, 2-4