Toronto Wolfpack got their Qualifiers campaign underway with a win but were made to work all the way at part-time Halifax.
They got the win thanks to two tries, one at the end of each half, while the home side had good spells in the game but couldn’t convert their chances.
Shane Grady was fortunate to stay on the field after a high shot inside two minutes, and it’s a good job he remained as he rescued Fax with a brilliant recovery tackle to force a knock on when Matty Russell looked certain to score in the right corner after Gareth O’Brien’s break.
Toronto then bombed another good chance after Chase Stanley went in at the same corner after being found in acres of space, but the pass from O’Brien was ruled as forward.
They finally got a try four minutes from the break, as Andy Ackers went over from close range for a try converted by O’Brien.
Halifax came out strongly again in the second half but still struggled to take advantage, despite being in a great position after Scott Murrell’s 40/20 and then again after forcing a repeat set.
O’Brien added a penalty to edge Toronto ahead on the hour mark after a high shot by Grady, before Blake Wallace could have finished the game off but was denied by a brilliant tackle by Kieren Moss after breaking clear.
They made the win certain three minutes from time though, as Andrew Dixon crashed over and O’Brien again converted for a 14-0 victory.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Wolfpack yet to roar
Winning matters more than anything in the Qualifiers but it was still a very disappointing display from Toronto, who were on the back foot for most of the game, were largely dominated down the middle and made a lot of errors.
Many of the players were rested for the previous game against Featherstone so had enjoyed three weeks off, but that perhaps was the reason behind their rustiness.
It didn’t help having both wingers, Liam Kay and Matty Russell, taken off injured in the first half, and that limited their ability to play expansively and produce some of the great football that we’ve seen from them throughout the season.
Full effort, less quality
Richard Marshall said ahead of the Qualifiers that no side could match the fight of his Halifax team, and that was proved by a brilliant effort from every one of his players.
To dominate what should on paper be a dominant Toronto pack was no mean feat, but in the end they just lacked the quality when attacking the try-line to find a way through a very well-organised defence.
Man of the Match – Gareth O’Brien (Toronto Wolfpack)
There were few standouts for the victors in what was a poor performance overall, but full-back O’Brien didn’t put a foot wrong.
He had two try assists chalked off in the first half but always looked likeliest to make something happen, while defending strongly and looking comfortable under the high ball, and he nailed his three kicks too.
Drop Goals: n/a
Toronto Wolfpack 14
Tries: Ackers, Dixon
Goals: O’Brien (3)
Drop Goals: n/a
Halifax: Moss; Saltonstall, Tyrer, Heaton, Sharp; Murrell, Johnston; Maher, Kaye, Fairbank; Grady, Butler, Barber.
Interchanges: Morris, Moore, Baldwinson, Moore.
Toronto Wolfpack: O’Brien; Russell, Stanley, Wheeler, Kay; McCrone, Wallace; Sims, Beswick, Lussick; Dixon, Paterson, Emmitt.
Interchanges: Buchanan, Bussey, Ackers, Sidlow.
Referee: Chris Kendall