After last weeks draw at Barrow Raiders the Toronto Wolfpack were on the road again, this time at the MBi Shay to take on a Halifax side looking to inflict more pain on the big spenders and secure their second victory of the season.
Ashton Sims was making his Toronto debut after signing from the Warrington Wolves, and Joe Westerman was back after missing last week. Halifax were on the back of a win against the Sheffield Eagles in the last round and a win would signal a real intent to have another shot at the middle eights competition come the split.
The crowd were expecting a close match but the bookies had the visitors as strong favourites.
James Clare almost opened the Halifax account on two after taking a Scott Murrell high kick but the referee adjudged a double movement as he went to score and Halifax more than held their own in an entertaining opening thirty minutes with flair in attack and some tremendous defence.
It was a real arm-wrestle with very little to choose between the two sides. But on thirty-two Greg Worthington was fed from the back of the scrum but he outpaced the cover defence over twenty metres to ground. Ryan Brierley was unable to add the extras but the Wolfpack knew that they were in a scrap.
Despite going behind it was Halifax who dominated the the next eight minutes and a James Woodburn-Hall grubber was collected by Chester Butler who dove over by the right upright. Ste Tyrer added the goal to put ‘Fax into a two point interval lead.
It had been a highly competitive opening forty, a proper half of Championship rugby.
On forty-six Toronto we’re back in he lead with an eighty metre team try involving Ryan Brierley, Josh McCrone, Richard Whiting, Liam Kay, allowing Nick Rawsthorne to race the Halifax defence over the last twenty to score in the corner. Brierley added the extras for 10-6.
A fracas on fifty, after James Saltonstall was dumped in a dangerous tackle, saw McCrone sin-binned and on the sidelines for the next ten.
On sixty-one a Will Sharp break looked like a great foundation for a second Halifax try but the Toronto defence held strong.
Toronto were awarded a penalty on sixty-six when Liam Kay was impeded chasing his own kick and it was soon followed by a second penalty, this one in front of the sticks, for a hand in at the play the ball. Toronto pointed to the sticks and Brierley added the two for a six point lead.
With ten to go Halifax were still in the game but when Adam Higson flew in by the right corner flag, off a Worthington pass, he sealed the win for the Wolfpack. Brierley was unable to add the conversion and the visitors led by 16-6.
In the dying seconds Higson won a race to ground a bobbling grubber before the ball went dead in goal, to twist the knife. And as the final hooter sounded Brierley failed to add the conversion for a final score of 20-6.
The final score didn’t do justice to the Halifax effort who pushed Toronto all the way to the final hooter and who can count themselves as unlucky that they couldn’t salvage something for their endeavours. Toronto are learning that the Championship is a far tougher prospect than the third tier and while they are still likely to make the top four, they won’t have everything their own way.
A great game of rugby for the three thousand attendees.
Halifax: Sharp, Saltonstall, Barber, Tyrer (G), Clare, Murrell, Woodburn-Hall, Maher, Moore, Murray, Grix, Butler (T), Fairbank. Subs: Green, Morris, Kaye, Douglas.
Wolfpack: Laula-Togaga’e, Higson (2T), Worthington (T), Rawsthorne (T), Kay, Brierley (2G), McCrone (SB on 51), Sims, Beswick, Buchanan, Dixon, Whiting, Westerman. Subs: Ackers, Sidlow, Emmitt, Krasniqi.
Half Time: 6-4.
Full Time: 6-20.
Referee: Jack Smith.