Monday, 27 February 2017

Siddal ARLFC 6, Toronto Wolfpack 14: Challenge Cup 3rd Round Match Report

Siddal ARLFC 6, Toronto Wolfpack 14
By James Nalton (25/02/2017)

This was a far cry from Toronto Wolfpack’s glamour friendly against Super League side Hull FC back in January.

That may have been the new club’s first ever game, but this Challenge Cup Third Round tie was their first competitive match and amateur club Siddal made sure the Canadian side know what faces them as they attempt to rise through the leagues.

Siddal’s home ground of Chevinedge, just outside Halifax, is the type of arena the Wolfpack will have to get used to as they begin their rugby league journey.

Stages like this are where the seeds of rugby league’s future are sown, and the Toronto club will lay their own foundations at grounds like this in the weeks and months to come.

The grass covering lasted about as long as the players tempers, as a skirmish broke out just minutes into the game and the pitch quickly turned to mud.

The National Conference League champions defeated Pilkington Recs in the previous round, scoring 34 unanswered points after initially going behind 10-0.

They began this game in similarly impressive fashion, and the sides looked evenly matched early on with the pitch acting as a leveller.

The home team’s defence held both Blake Wallace and Bob Beswick close to the line in an early showing of the solid defending to come throughout the game.

By this time those watching on the BBC’s live stream — broadcast worldwide — were viewing the game through a drizzle spotted lens, but viewers were still able to see Siddal’s defence hold out for a second time as Toronto enjoyed multiple sets in opposition territory but couldn’t break through.

Blake Wallace came close again but was held up over the line as Toronto struggled to get the ball out wide quickly in the wet conditions.

The first points of the game came when Jack Bussey was penalised for a high tackle and the boot of Siddal’s Gareth Blackburn navigated the blustery conditions to kick his side into a 2-0 lead.

Going behind shocked the Wolfpack into action, and they crossed though Ryan Burroughs as they were finally able to get the ball out wide quickly and cleanly. This try gave the visitors a 4-2 lead at half time.

The BBC cameraman took the opportunity to clean his lens at half-time but the clarity didn’t last for long as the drizzle continued to blow around the ground.

Siddal started the second half well and were eventually rewarded with a try. They’d forced a second set as the Wolfpack had to drop out from beneath the sticks, and the amateur wide were able to score through George Ambler who got on the end of Shaun Garrod’s kick into the in goal area.

By this time both teams were playing in black, as Siddal’s Halifax-esque blue and white kits had become caked in mud, and the white numbers on the back of Toronto’s shirts were illegible.

It was a real test for the new professional club from across the Atlantic, and they had to dig deep in order to come out on top in this war of attrition.

They scored their second try of the game when Greg Worthington crossed in the far corner, and just over ten minutes later they were able to put daylight between them and their opposition for the first time when substitute Adam Sidlow slid over beside the posts. Craig Hall added the extras as the first converted try of the game made the score 14-6 to the visitors.

Though this was the final score, the drama didn’t end there as Fuifui Moimoi was shown a red card for a high tackle on Ian Davies. It was an aggressive one-handed blow to the head from the Tongan, and the red card, which shone in the air amongst all the mud and rain, was deserved.

There were suggestions that the former Parramatta Eels man merely wanted an early bath as there might be a shortage of hot water in the changing rooms of the amateur club...

It was a fitting contest for Toronto’s first competitive match, and the game will be remembered as much for the effort of Siddal as it will for being the first game for this groundbreaking new club.

Fittingly, the visiting side gave the Siddal team a guard of honour as they trudged off after the final whistle.

“We had to fight really hard in an enclosed environment and didn’t get our noses in front until the very end,” Toronto director of rugby, Brian Noble, told The Mirror.

“Siddal were magnificent and well organised, and I dare say other teams in our division would have been beaten here today. It was good for us to come out the other side of that. Everybody’s muddy in the changing rooms but they’re happy.

“That is a reflection of where we want to be.Twenty percent of our squad are North American but over the years we’ll have to develop a whole lot more.”

Wolfpack coach Paul Rowley also had praise for Siddal, and was pleased with the way his side were able to overcome their tough amateur opponents.

“It was a good game, an absolute battle between two even sides to be fair. Not just because of the conditions and atmosphere - but because Siddal are a good side.

“We had our backs against the wall and were never going to be given anything - and rightly so. It was a great day for them and it’s kicked us off and running.

“If you fast forward 10 years and we are where we want to be, then this would be a great start to the story.”

This Challenge Cup win will serve the Wolfpack well in the months to come as they begin their League 1 campaign, and will have to endure many more games like this on their quest to reach the slightly brighter lights and greener pitches of Super League.

All involved deserved a pat on the back after the game: the 1000 or so spectators in attendance, the BBC for showing the game worldwide, and the Siddal club for hosting a game which will go down not only in Toronto Wolfpack history, but in the history of the game full stop.

Siddal starting XI
1 Freddie Walker
2 Gareth Blackburn
3 Zack McComb
4 Joe Martin
5 Ben West
6 Shaun Garrod
7 Kyle Ackroyd
8 Jack Georgiou
9 Craig Sanderson
10 George Ambler
11 Luke Garnett
12 Ben Hinsley
13 Byron Smith

14 Sean McCormack
15 Canaan Smithies
16 Daniel Williams
17 Ian Davies

Toronto starting XI
1 Quentin Laulu Togaga’e
2 Jonny Pownall
4 Craig Hall (C)
3 Greg Worthington
15 Ryan Burroughs
6 Blake Wallace
7 Rhys Jacks
19 Steve Crossley
9 Bob Beswick
29 Jake Emmitt
11 Andrew Dixon
17 Richard Whiting
13 Jack Bussey

8 Fuifui Moimoi
12 James Laithwaite
21 Adam Sidlow
16 Shaun Pick

The game can still be viewed via the BBC website here.

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