Match Report: Toronto Wolfpack v Wigan Warriors
13/02/2020 by Aiden McNicholas
A cold Thursday night in Wigan has ended with Toronto Wolfpack suffering the third defeat of their debut Super League season. The Warriors, one of the most successful teams in the competition and 2018 Champions, were too good in front of their home fans at DW Stadium, claiming a 32-10 victory against a Wolfpack side that fought hard all night long.
Already without marquee signing Sonny Bill Williams, who returned to New Zealand to be present at the birth of his son, Toronto also lost veteran Jon Wilkin in the lead-up and new recruit James Cunningham with a hamstring concern just moments into the fixture. A second half head-knock to Gadwin Springer would eventually see the Wolfpack reduced to just 15 players.
Gareth O’Brien made his first appearance of the season for Toronto, starting at full-back and pushing Blake Wallace into the halves. The 2019 Championship Player of the Year, O’Brien’s last Super League appearance was with Salford in March of 2018 and as both sides utilized the high ball early and often, he was consistently called into action from the outset.
Pre-game, Wolfpack Head Coach Brian McDermott addressed O’Brien’s absence across the opening fortnight and eventual return to the side.
“I think Gaz played all but one or two games last year, starting at full back. I know exactly what he can do. He was massively disappointed he wasn’t in the team, I was just looking at some other options. Is anybody guaranteed shirt in our team? No chance. Everyone has that same level of honesty and same level of attitude towards gaining a shirt.”
It was the Wolfpack that emerged from the heated beginning with points on the board, the third consecutive fixture in which they have opened the scoring. Putting together a 100% completion rate through the opening 20 minutes of play, Toronto’s consistent pressure eventually resulted in back-to-back sets that ended with a stunning try to winger Matty Russell in the left corner.
The Warriors then took their chance to pile on the pressure, repeatedly pressing forwards searching for a gap in the Wolfpack unit. The 27th minute saw Wigan young gun Harry Smith deploy a sharp sidestep and desperate lunge that levelled the scores to reward his side for their efforts. Exciting Warriors fullback Bevan French then collected his second try of the season when he ran a clever line at the Wolfpack defence, giving Wigan a six-point lead on the verge of half-time.
Toronto threw everything at Wigan from the opening whistle of the second half and almost drew level when Adam Sidlow crashed his way across the line only to be denied by the brilliant Warriors defence. They wouldn’t be denied moments later however when O’Brien drew multiple defenders before getting off a brilliant offload to send Bodene Thompson across for his first try of the season.
An unfortunate head clash then saw Gadwin Springer come from the field for assessment, reducing the Wolfpack to 15 players. The Warriors looked to use the opportunity to stretch Toronto in defence and would have reclaimed the lead in the 57th minute had it not been for a remarkable tackling effort from captain Josh McCrone. Just one minute later, it would prove to be for nothing when Wigan’s Bevan French took a quick restart that caught the Wolfpack on their heels, ending in a length of the field try credited to Joe Burgess. French then scored his second to give the Warriors a 12-point lead with fifteen minutes remaining.
Wigan’s Liam Farrell would register a quick double following a penalty against Hakim Miloudi that saw the final scoreline read 32-10. Jackson Hastings had a hand in both late tries for Wigan, the scrum-half adding an exclamation mark to his superb performance.
Toronto now turn their attention to a fourth round clash with Warrington Wolves on Friday February 21 at Halliwell Jones Stadium. The Wolves took a win and a loss from the opening fortnight, with their third fixture to come this Sunday against Wakefield Trinity. Kick-off is scheduled for 7.45pm UK time, 2.45pm Toronto time.
20’ Try Wolfpack: Russell 0-4
27’ Try Warriors: Smith 4-4
33’ Try Warriors: French. Conversion: Hardaker 10-4
Half Time: 10 – 4
48’ Try Wolfpack: Thompson. Conversion: Wallace 10-10
59’ Try Warriors: Burgess. Conversion: Hardaker 16-10
64’ Try Warriors: French. Conversion: Hardaker 22-10
77’ Try Warriors: Farrell 26-10
78’ Try Warriors: Farrell 32-10
Full Time: 32-10