Wolf­pack grad­u­ate to next level

Wolf­pack earns pro­mo­tion by clinch­ing rugby League 1 ti­tle

Sunday Sports - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAUNTAH

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.

NEIL DAVID­SON/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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.

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