Toronto Wolfpack vs Sheffield Eagles
Toronto Wolfpack have marked the 2019 London Series with a decisive win over fellow Betfred Championship high-flyers Sheffield Eagles. The day saw an exciting NFL-style FaneZone, a Canadian descent on the UK capital featuring local delicacies and all-round celebration of Rugby League with community games leading into the huge double-header spanning two Leagues.
The victory at New River Stadium extends the Wolfpack’s hold on top spot in the Championship while the Eagles will await the result of Sunday’s fixtures to see if they retain their grip on the top three.
London Skolars got the highly-anticipated double-header underway with their League One matchup against Workington Town and they gave the crowd plenty to cheer about thanks to a thrilling 34-32 triumph. Despite trailing by 16 at half-time, the Skolars drew on support from their home fans to put together a remarkable second 40 minutes, edging in front with just minutes remaining.
The Wolfpack used the energy from the Skolars nail-biting win to hold firm in defence early against the Eagles, before registering a try on the 10 minute mark through Chase Stanley. Toronto elected to spread the ball on the fifth tackle with Jon Wilkin, Josh McCrone and Gareth O’Brien all playing a part in releasing Stanley into space for his second try of the season. O’Brien pushed the tough conversion attempt wide, holding the Wolfpack lead at four.
Ricky Leutele then set the game alight with two sensational efforts in quick succession down the left wing. A fast break saw the Samoan international gain superb field position for the Wolfpack and two tackles later he would release Matty Russell with a skilful one-handed pass under extreme pressure. On a tough day for kickers, O’Brien sprayed the conversion to keep the lead at eight.
Sheffield would respond almost immediately on the back of an error from Blake Wallace, spilling the kick-off to hand possession to the Eagles. They took full advantage of the mistake to cross the line through Oliver Davies on the receiving end of a slick pass from Anthony Thackeray. A missed conversion saw the scoreline reading 8-4.
A quick play the ball from Wilkin and a wonderful offload from Andy Ackers despite several defenders hanging off him allowed Tom Olbison to ground the ball for his first try of 2019 in the shadows of half-time. The Wolfpack weren’t done for the opening period, with Andy Ackers completing a bright first half with a try of his own after a clever dummy out of half back. Recent loan-signing Brad Fash made his impact felt in the lead-up with a relentless push towards the line that allowed Ackers to slide in for four points as the clock ticked over to signal the break.
Leutele started the second half as he finished the first, sprinting into open space on the back his own electric efforts. Pouncing on a loose pass from Sheffield, he left the opposition grasping at his heels before being brought down after gaining 50 metres for his side. It would eventually lead to Blake Wallace crossing the line for a four-pointer so soon into the half that the referee’s whistle still lingered in the air. Wallace would go on to convert his own work and push the lead to 20.
The Eagles registered their second try in the 50th minute through Ryan Millar, his eighth of the season. It came after an excellent offload on the left wing by James Glover and after the tough conversion attempt was successful, the lead was reduced to 14 points.
Matty Russell took his Championship total to 11 when he crossed the line again on the back of consistent pressure from his teammates on the Eagles defensive line. The repeat efforts from the Wolfpack eventually lead to a large enough gap in the left corner for Russell to exploit.
Blake Wallace added the punctuation to the performance with five minutes remaining, sliding through an exhausted Eagles defence for his eighth try of 2019. His conversion extended to lead out to 24 points. That margin would not hold until the final siren, with Adam Sidlow the beneficiary of an error from Sheffield after a grubber kick put through by Blake Wallace. The conversion created a final margin of 30, reflecting the dominance of the Wolfpack across much of the contest.
The Betfred Championship now takes a week off before the Wolfpack head to Craven Park, Hull to battle Barrow Raiders Friday, April 19th. The clash kicks-off a huge long weekend for Toronto, with Monday then taking the Canadian side to LD Nutrition Stadium in Featherstone to face the Rovers. Friday’s kick-off is 10:00am EST, 3:00pm GMT, and fans can tune in live on Sky Sports in the UK, Game TV and CBC sports online in Canada and globally courtesy of the Wolfpack’s Facebook page.
10’ Try Wolfpack: Stanley 4-0
17’ Try Wolfpack: Russell 8-0
21’ Try Eagles: Davies 8-4
36’ Try Wolfpack: Olbison. Conversion: O’Brien 14-4
40’ Try Wolfpack: Ackers 18-4
Half Time: 18 – 4
43’ Try Wolfpack: Wallace. Conversion: Wallace 24-4
50’ Try Eagles: Millar. Conversion: Walker 24-10
61’ Try Wolfpack: Russell. 28-10
74’ Try Wolfpack: Wallace. Conversion: Wallace 34-10
78’ Try Wolfpack: Sidlow. Conversion: Wallace 40-10
Full Time: 40 – 10
1 Gaz O’Brien
2 Matty Russell
3 Chase Stanley
4 Ricky Leutele
7 Josh McCrone
8 Adam Sidlow
10 Ashton Sims
11 Andrew Dixon
13 Jon Wilkin
14 Andy Ackers
16 Tom Olbison
17 Blake Wallace
27 Hakim Miloudi
15 Darcy Lussick
18 Gadwin Springer
21 Anthony Mullally
26 Brad Fash