Sunday, 26 March 2017

Keighley Cougars 21, Toronto Wolfpack 48: Match Report

Toronto Wolfpack aim to play an exciting expansive form of rugby league, but today their hosts initially caught them off-guard with their own inventive play.

1,128 turned up at Cougar Park to see Keighley’s game against rugby league’s new boys, and those who spent this sunny afternoon watching League 1 rugby weren’t disappointed.

An error in the opening minute gave an early impression that this would be another easy win for Toronto, but Adam Sidlow dropped the ball over the line for the Wolfpack in an unexpected first attack.

Keighley came back well, though, and forced a repeat set on the opposition line shortly after. It turned into an even, somewhat error strewn game as both sides tried things in attack.

Matty Beharrell’s kicking game was key to the home side’s good field position, and his punt to the corner was almost collected by Andy Gabriel.

Toronto drew first blood when Jonny Pownall scored on the overlap on the right wing, but Craig Hall was unable to convert from the touchline.

He was given another tough conversion when the Wolfpack crossed again when Liam Kay dove at full stretch to touch down a clever Blake Wallace grubber into the corner. Hall missed again, making the score 8-0.

The Cougars got the try their play deserved when Will Milner broke through the line, offloading to Joshua Lynham who was on hand to cross by the posts.

Beharrell took control of the game for the rest of the half, converting Lynham’s try, knocking over a penalty, and adding a drop goal before the half-time hooter to make the scores 9-8 in Keighley’s favour.

Keighley came out for the second half and scored out of nowhere from their own kick-off.

Kay and Wallace made a mess of receiving the kick, and Brad Nicholson pounced on the loose ball to claim four points.

Toronto looked out of ideas and needed to go back to the basics, doing the simple things well in order to take control of the game.

Bob Beswick did just that. Winning a penalty with a scamper from dummy-half before organising his team as they went the full length of the pitch. Wallace added the final touch of class with some fancy footwork to break the line and cross under the posts.

Hall kicked his first conversion of the game and Toronto were back in it. Their individual class then began to tell when Pownall broke through some poor Keighley defence before going the length of the field to score.

Errors crept into Keighley’s game and Hall was able to pounce on a loose offload to kick through and score, adding the extras too.

Keighley looked out of gas and out of ideas, which could be a familiar story when it comes to Toronto’s opposition this season. Amateur sides playing against a professional outfit will always struggle for fitness late in games, and this match was an example of that.

Hall put Pownall in for his hat-trick with a great pass after drawing three defenders, but again failed to convert from the touchline.

With around 10-minutes to go Keighley came up with one of the best passing moves of the game out of nowhere to make the scores 30-21. It was a second wind, and a deserved try for Beharrell. The Cougars played expansive rugby until the end, but errors prevented further progress. Two more from Sidlow and an Andrew Dixon try added to the scoreboard late on to make the final score 21-48.

It was another win for Toronto, but the performance of their opposition will have taught them a lot about the areas where they need to improve.

As they look set to take League 1 by storm it will be important that the Wolfpack take lessons from the moments their opponents are on top.

Today was also their first glimpse of summer rugby in the UK as sun shone down on West Yorkshire, and the 100s in attendance will have enjoyed the performances of both sides.

Toronto Director of Rugby Brian Noble gave man of the match to Matty Beharrell, and after the scrum-half's stand-out performance, it was fully deserved despite being on the losing side.

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