Thursday, 16 March 2017

Toronto Wolfpack: The First Two - London & Whitehaven



From London, the South East, and a new shiny artificial pitch, to the North West, Whitehaven, a rugby heartland.

Following this team isn't just following a club, it's supporting the game, and along the journey Toronto Wolfpack have planned you'll see all it has to offer.

Hull. Siddal. London?

Toronto Wolfpack’s journey may have started in the rugby league heartlands of Yorkshire, but in their first ever game in the league they look to climb took place in unfamiliar RL territory.

Rugby league has struggled to exist in London, and many clubs have formed and failed and come and gone.

There are some similarities between the attempts to establish the game in London and the current Toronto project, but there are also many differences, which will hopefully come to light as the Wolfpack story unfolds.

But it’s here, in the shadows of soccer and rugby union, that the Canadian side’s journey begins, on the artificial turf of the White Hart Lane Community Sports Centre.

The very name of the stadium hints at soccer, with Tottenham Hotspur just down the road from this ground which is also more conveniently known as New River Stadium.

It’s a far cry from the Siddal mud. The mud up there, between Halifax and Huddersfield is proper rugby league mud, and down here they don’t even entertain it.

However, the artificial pitch suits the wolfpack down to the ground. For the first time they’re able to display the other side of their game. The silky skills, quick ball handling, and superior physical fitness which should see them walk this division.

That’s not to diminish the contributions of the London Skolars and the other teams in the league who fall way behind when it comes to resources, but stand high when it comes to giving rugby league a platform.

They are also providing a platform for the Toronto Wolfpack. Without these teams there is no league structure, no path to Super League, and no way in for an ambitious side with enviable resources.

Nevertheless, it was an easy victory for Toronto in their first game, as they an out 76-0 winners.

Craig Hall scored the side’s first try in the league, while Fuifui Moimoi grabbed a hat-trick. Head coach Paul Rowley had words of warning for future opponents regarding the Tongan-born New Zealand international.

“Moimoi is box office. I would pay money to watch him,” Rowley said. “He has a big frame and leg speed and he doesn’t have a hand brake. You don’t want to stand in his way.”

“It was the perfect start. We reminded people that we are not a bad side,” added Rowley.

“We have got some good attackers and, on a fast track like that, we could play a good brand of rugby. But our defence was strong too. We didn’t just stop them, we were quite brutal at times.”

“People want to knock us off our perch. “They want us to be arrogant. But we are not. We are humble and grounded.”

Toronto Team

1 Quentin Laulu Togaga’e
2 Jonny Pownall
3 Greg Worthington
4 Craig Hall (C)
5 Liam Kay
6 Blake Wallace
7 Rhys Jacks
8 Fuifui Moimoi
9 Bob Beswick
29 Jake Emmitt
11 Andrew Dixon
12 James Laithwaite
13 Jack Bussey

Subs
14 Gary Wheeler
19 Steve Crossley
21 Adam Sidlow
17 Richard Whiting

Tries: Hall (2), Pownall, Moimoi (3), Beswick, Kay (2), Dixon, Worthington (2), Laulu-Togagae

Goals: Hall (12)

Attendance: 1,542



The nature of this quest means that anything could be around the corner, and what came next was something completely different.

A trip up to Whitehaven brought a new test, and will have made the Toronto outfit thankful that they’d already passed a similar test at Siddal.

On England’s north-west coast, Whitehaven and west Cumbria is a hotbed of amateur rugby league.

It’s a massively underappreciated area in the game and is up there with Lancashire and Yorkshire when it comes to the heartlands of rugby league.

The area should have at least one Super League club, and there is a case to say that Whitehaven and their neighbours Workington should have been more involved in the top league by now.

Toronto Wolfpack Director of Rugby Brian Noble commented prior to the game that he’s always been an advocate of a Cumbrian based Super League side, but he finds his team facing them here in League 1.

The conditions were damp, and the pitch was a stark contrast to the 4G artificial turf down in London.

But the result was no different. Whitehaven spent last season in the Championship and put up a good fight as expected, but it was a comfortable 24-10 win for Toronto.

“People talk about our attack, but defensively, we’re pretty good. Whitehaven scored after two kicks and that’s all. We’re more than happy. We were ruthless from start to finish and by far the better team,” summarised Rowley.

Toronto Team:

1 Quentin Laula-Togaga’e
2 Jonny Pownall
4 Craig Hall (C)
3 Greg Worthington
5 Liam Kay
6 Blake Wallace
7 Rhys Jacks
21 Adam Sidlow
9 Bob Beswick
29 Jake Emmitt
11 Andrew Dixon
12 James Laithwaite
13 Jack Bussey

Subs
14 Gary Wheeler
19 Steve Crossley
21 Richard Whiting
23 Toby Everett

Tries: Hall, Kay, Beswick, Pownall

Goals: Hall (4)

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