Wolfpack graduate to next level
Wolfpack earns promotion by clinching rugby League 1 title
It’s not the silverware the Toronto Wolfpack eventually want to win.
But that didn’t matter too much on Saturday.
The Wolfpack clinched the Kingstone Press League 1 championship with one match to spare, beating the Barrow Raiders 26-2 in a commanding performance.
The Wolfpack now moves up to the Championship league for 2018 but for the team and the clubrecord 7,972 fans on hand at Lamport Stadium, they were just ready to party.
The players deserved it, wrapping up a journey (spare a now-meaningless game against Doncaster next Saturday) that began last November and took them more kilometres than any other team in sports history.
“It feels richly deserved for a group of hard-working players who put so much into this season,” coach Paul Rowley said. “We came as a bunch of individuals, became a family. Then we got some new additions to the family, which are the people of Toronto here today.”
After the final whistle, the players, plus Rowley, director of rugby Brian Noble, team CEO Eric Perez, and principal owner David Argyle joined in the fun, drenched in champagne as captain Craig Hall lifted the League 1 trophy.
“Mission accomplished,” Hall said. “It’s what we set out to do early in the year.
“We started back in November. The lads earned it from Day 1.”
The Wolfpack needed to earn Saturday’s win, as well. Both teams tested each other by using their forward lines up and down the middle of the field.
Barrow had the first couple of chances to break through but the Wolfpack defence caused a couple of knockons to end those threats.
The Wolfpack would get the only try of the opening 40 minutes. A good run by Hall and a couple of penalties by Barrow set the table for Quentin Laulu Togaga’e, who found a small crease to the line 13 minutes in. And 17 minutes later, the Wolfpack got its other score of the half when the Raiders took a penalty 15 metres from their line. Hall decided to kick for the two points, which he did comfortably to give the home side an 8-0 lead heading into halftime.
Barrow had most of the play through the first 10 minutes of the second half, getting its only points on a penalty kick from Lewis Charnock to cut the deficit to 8-2.
But that woke up the Wolfpack, which scored three tries in rapid succession. First, Gary Wheeler found Blake Wallace, who had a clear path to the line. Then, with the benefit of a penalty against Barrow, Richard Whiting capped off the ensuing possession with the second try of the half.
Then two possessions later, Adam Sidlow found Wallace, who again had a wide-open path to the line to finish the scoring.
From there, it was just a matter of managing the clock and their internal excitement.
“We’ve had a long road,” Bob Beswick said. “We bought in to the vision that Paul and Eric and David had.”
“It took a little bit of belief. But we’re really happy with the support. I don’t think I’ve really enjoyed a rugby league like I did this year.”
The road to the Super League will get tougher in 2018. But there’s no doubt the Wolfpack has the leadership, structure, and now the fan support to stay on the right path.
Toronto Wolfpack captain Craig Hall hoists the trophy yesterday as the beer-soaked first-year rugby league team celebrates capturing the Kingstone Press League 1 title and promotion to the English second tier after defeating the Barrow Raiders 26-2 at Toronto’s Lamport Stadium.