Toronto Wolfpack rally to win first competitive rugby league game

Wolfpack rally to win first competitive game

HALIFAX — The Toronto Wolfpack survived a resolute Siddal amateur side to win its first competitive rugby league game 14-6 Saturday in the third round of the knockout Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.

The game was played in wind, rain and mud at CWC Park in west Yorkshire.

The Wolfpack, the sport’s first transatlantic team, trailed 2-0 in the first half and 6-4 in the second despite dominating possession and mounting one attack after another on the Siddal goal-line. Late tries by Greg Worthington and Adam Sidlow proved to be the winning margin.

Toronto opens league play on March 4 at the London Skolars in the Kingstone Press League 1, the third tier of English rugby. Its first home game at Lamport Stadium is May 6 against Oxford RLFC. Its goal is to win promotion twice to climb into the elite Super League.

American Ryan Burroughs also scored a try for Toronto. Captain Craig Hall added a conversion

George Ambler scored Siddal’s try with Gareth Blackburn, a plumber when not playing rugby league, kicking a penalty.

Toronto’s Fuifui Moimoi, a former fan favourite for the Parramatta Eels in Australia’s NRL, was sent off in the dying minutes for a high tackle. Siddal’s Freddie Walker was named man of the match.

The third round saw Toronto and the other 15 Kingstone Press League 1 clubs joining the eight second-round winners.

Siddal, which made the fourth round of last year’s competition, beat the Milford Marlins 16-4 and Pilkinton Recs 34-10 to earn the date with Toronto.

The Wolfpack lost Hall to an eye injury in the warmup. Replaced by James Laithwaite in the starting 13, he came in off the bench later.

Toronto had the best of the first half but only led 4-2 thanks to some stout Siddal defending.

Former Samoan international Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e — known as QLT — came close early for Toronto but stepped into touch as he headed for the corner. The attack was aided by a Siddal penalty for offside at the end of a Toronto set.

A drop by Toronto’s Blake Wallace near the line soon after ended another threat. The Wolfpack kept the pressure on deep in the Siddal end but the home side withstood the onslaught.

Wallace was held up at the goal-line later in the half and Laulu-Togaga’e knocked on soon after to snuff out another Wolfpack attack.

Siddal went ahead on a Blackburn penalty kick 30 minutes in after a Toronto high tackle.

Toronto finally broke through via Burroughs in the corner as the Siddal defence finally cracked later in the half. Siddal almost scored on the ensuing kickoff deep into Wolfpack territory. 

The Toronto attack continued in the second half, only to be rebuffed at the goal-line again.

Blackburn missed a penalty 15 minutes into the second half, regaining possession but failed to convert on a grubber kick through the defence.

Siddal went ahead 6-4 with Ambler retrieving a well-executed kick through the defence midway through the second half. Blackburn missed the conversion.

Toronto replied with Worthington, on the wing, completing a sweeping attack for an 8-6 lead. And then Sidlow, finding a crack in the tiring Siddal defence, added an insurance converted try.

A successful amateur side, Siddal has sent players to the pro ranks and become a home for former pros. It is a well-established club with more than 350 players spread over 16 teams from youth to masters.

Siddal topped the Premier Division of England’s National Conference League last season with an 18-4-0 record and defeated League 1’s Newcastle Thunder 40-4 before falling 48-20 to the Rochdale Hornets in Cup play.

Toronto coach Paul Rowley, whose players have been training in Yorkshire near Siddal’s base since November, said prior to the game that Siddal would be a tougher foe that some of the pro teams the Wolfpack will play.

Toronto lost its only other game, 26-20, in pre-season play to Super League team Hull FC in late January.

The Canadian Press