It’s just six short weeks since the Toronto Wolfpack beat the Sheffield Eagles by 40-10, but with only Toulouse between them in the Betfred Championship table, the Eagles went into tonight’s home game looking to gain revenge, and make up ground on the runaway league leaders.
With the Magic Weekend scheduled to start in Anfield tomorrow afternoon, the stage was set for the game of the weekend in the Championship to raise the curtain on a weekend festival of rugby and whet the appetite.
A win for the Eagles would lift them level on points with Toulouse, but a loss could see them end the weekend in sixth spot ,should the teams currently below them pick up a win. Another Toronto win would lift them eight points clear of their nearest rivals.
Good early Toronto pressure forced a drop out on four minutes and three tackles into the set Blake Wallace threw a dummy before stepping inside his tackler and stretching for the line to ground for the opener. The try scorer added the conversion himself and the Wolfpack were off and running.
On twelve, Gareth O’Brien broke the Eagles line and passed inside to the supporting Andrew Dixon, who took the pass close to the line to scamper over. Wallace added the conversion for a 12-0 lead.
Dixon got his second on sixteen to maintain the Wolfpack procession. Andy Ackers, Darcy Lussick and Jon Wilkin all had a hand in creating the opportunity for the second-rower to go under the sticks. Wallace again added the extras, the Canadians scoring at a point a minute.
Liam Kay got the fourth of the evening as the Wolfpack moved the ball right through a number of pairs of hands for the ball to end up in the hands of the flying winger to cross on the overlap to score in the corner. Wallace kicked a superb touchline conversion to maintain his perfect record.
The try of the game came on twenty-nine when Chase Stanley scored on the last play of the set after Toronto gave the ball plenty of air in a complex passing movement which stretched the Eagles defence and created a massive gap for the centre to go over. This time Wallace missed the conversion, but the Eagles were looking a poor second best.
With ninety seconds of the half remaining Ben Hellewell finally registered the Eagles first points after jinking through the Toronto defence to score from ten metres. Pat Walker was unable to kick the conversion and the Eagles went into the interview trailing by 28-4.
It took six minutes of the second half for Toronto to get back in the scoring mood when Leutele grabbed and grounded an O’Brien grubber kick in the corner, very close to the touchline. Wallace was unable to add the touchline conversion, now four from six.
More business as usual on fifty as Nick Rawsthorne ran through two defenders and grounded, one-handed. Rawsthorne picked up an ankle injury in the acto of scoring and as Wallace missed again the scorer was helped from the field.
Despite the game having already gone, all credit to Sheffield who got their second on fifty-two as Josh Guzdek danced through the Wolfpack defence to score the Eagles second. Walker added the conversion to bring up double figures for the home side at 10-36.
Andy Ackers had Adam Sidlow to thank for an offload to go twenty metres for the eighth Toronto try of the night. Wallace added the conversion for 42-10, the Eagles simply had no answer to the relentless Wolfpack pressure.
Brad Knowles grabbed a seventy-second minute when he took a Pat Moran pass and stepped off both feet to go over under the sticks. Walker added the conversion for a modicum of respectability in a 42-16 loss.
It was an easy win for the Wolfpack, again showing that they are head and shoulders above their Championship opposition. They took an early lead, built on it, and never let it slip. It’s clear that despite their scoring almost at will, they do have some defensive issues and let Sheffield in for three relatively easy tries to gain some credibility in the scoreline.
The question is, will anyone be able to halt Toronto’s march to Super League with a play-off shock? On this showing it is unlikely to be the Eagles.
Eagles: Guzdek (T), Millar, Ogden, Hellewell (T), Blackmore, Walker (2G), Thackeray, Moran, Davey, Knowles (T), Farrell, Brown. Subs: Crookes, Hindmarsh, Broadbent, Makelim.
Wolfpack: O’Brien, Kay (T), Stanley (T), Leutele (T), Russell, Wallace (T, 5G), McCrone, Sidlow, Ackers (T), Lussick, Dixon (2T), Thompson, Wilkin. Subs: Rawsthorne (T), Sims, Olbison, Mullally.
Referee: Billy Pearson.