The Toronto Wolfpack completed an undefeated regular season with victory over the Hemel Stags in front of a club record crowd at Lamport Stadium. Australian five-eighth Blake Wallace and English skipper Craig Hall starred for the home team, scoring a hat trick and double hat trick respectively.
The Stags had only won a single match all season and were always going to struggle against the competition leaders. Toronto wasted no time against the Kingstone Press League One minnows and scored three tries in the opening 10 minutes to take a commanding 18-0 lead. Right centre Craig Hall scored a brace before Blake Wallace took on Hemel’s goal line defence to score the third try of the game.
The physical mismatch between two sides was highlighted early in the contest by a ruthless charge by former New Zealand Kiwi international Fui Fui Moi Moi. Moi Moi returned a Hemel drop out, running about 20 metres which had the home crowd cheering in anticipation before flattening the much smaller Stags hooker Jonathan Burns.
Makeshift fullback Jonny Pownall, covering for injured star Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, scored next for the Wolfpack. Hemel immediately hit back with winger Marcus Elliot scoring in the corner following consecutive penalties to the visitors. The score cut the Wolfpack’s lead to 18.
A set move from the Wolfpack scrum base down the short side generated a chance for Toronto flier Liam Kay who had too much pace for the Hemel cover defence and scored. Craig Hall crossed the line for the third time with a spin move close to Hemel’s try line. The Stags found success again down the left edge with a crafty offload resulting in a try to five-eighth Mark Barlow. The visitors trailed 32-10 at the half time break.
The home side immediately retook the initiative after Irishman Bob Beswick dummied and cut through the defensive line to score. The Stags showed competitive heart to stay in the contest. Jack O’Brien of the Stags exploded onto a flat ball to score adjacent to the posts and reduce the deficit to 22 points. Jonny Pownall was sent to the sin-bin for dissent following this try.
Born and bred Canadian youngster Quinn Ngawati was rewarded for a solid debut in Toronto’s last fixture against the Gloucestershire All Golds with entry into the game at left centre shortly after half time. Ngawati looked competent on both sides of the ball with solid defence and some dangerous runs in attack. The 19 year old signed a 3 year contract extension with Toronto, announced after the match.
Unperturbed by playing a player short, the Wolfpack fired off four tries in quick succession. Blake Wallace scored his second try with a dummy and run through Hemel’s tiring defence, before Craig Hall scored his fourth try for the day from another move at the scrum base. Front Rower Steve Crossley scored the first try of his Wolfpack career after being set up with a Bob Beswick pass. Wallace soon crossed again to complete his hat trick.
With the result beyond doubt Toronto attempted some North American inspired trickery by throwing a cross field gridiron style pass across the field followed by a chip and chase. Hemel diffused the situation, showing good awareness to position themselves to retrieve the chip. Returning to more traditional rugby league play, Liam Kay made an 80 metre break before setting up Fui Fui Moi Moi to score, much to the delight of the home crowd. British Wolfpack prop Dan Fleming scored the final try of the game.
The Wolfpack completed their first regular season in the Kingstone Press League One undefeated and will take pole position going into the Super 8s. The leading team after the Super 8s round robin will earn promotion into the Kingstone Press Championship.
Toronto Wolfpack 74
Tries: Hall (4,6,35,54), Wallace (10, 51, 68), Pownall (15), Kay (2 8), Beswick (42), Crossley (59), Moimoi (73), Fleming (76)
Goals: Hall 11/13
Hemel Stags 16
Tries: Elliot (22), Barlow (38), O’Brien (46)
Goals: Vincent (2/3)