Sean Hayes looks at an ill disciplined display from Toronto Wolfpack in their Challenge Cup defeat to Warrington Wolves, and praises Ben Thaler for his handling of the game.
Sunday saw the RFL’s latest pet project given a chance to showcase what they are about, on a prime-time national television slot, in the sport’s most prestigious and oldest competition.
Toronto Wolfpack and their star studded cast arrived at the Halliwell Jones Stadium for their Ladbrokes Challenge Cup round six tie seemingly with nothing to lose.
They’re a Championship outfit who were facing one of Super League’s form sides. Win, and they have pulled off an impressive giant-killing, lose and they have nothing to be ashamed of.
At least that’s what they thought.
The Wolfpack matched their opponents for the first period, before capitulating with an incredible disregard for discipline.
At one stage they were left with 10 men on the field, leading to a 66-10 hammering which they thoroughly deserved.
Liam Kay’s 29th minute yellow card was for a dangerous tackle on Josh Charnely, and while it lacked malice it was a definite sin-binning.
Then, two minutes from the break, a brain explosion saw Andrew Dixon land a punch on Harvey Livett, which rightly-so ended his part in the circus act the game was about to become.
Supporters can claim ‘the game has gone soft’ all they want, but in the sport today if you throw one you have to be prepared to take the consequences. You may have got away with it five or ten years ago, but players are well aware of the rules and Dixon let his team mates down.
The worst of the lot, for me, was captain Josh McCrone’s yellow card for dissent. Kids know better than to talk back to the referee, it’s one of the first things they are taught, but for some unknown reason the Wolfpack skipper decided to argue his way into the book.
That decision saw Ben Thaler given harsh and undeserved criticism. He had no other choice than to send McCrone to the sin bin, and if more referees stood up and did the same to persistent offenders then dissent wouldn’t be infecting our sport.
Crowding the referee is something we see in football every week, as they are constantly in the official’s ear trying to influence the handling of the game. It is unwanted in rugby league, there is no place for it, but unfortunately it is becoming more and more common, so much so that Darcy Lussick was also carded for the same offence just six minutes later.
I have bagged referees as much as most, I won’t deny that, however they deserve all the credit when they get it right. Thaler did just that, it’s just a shame there isn’t consistency in refereeing performances.
Warrington ran riot in the end, as they made their advantage in numbers pay, bringing the curtain down on Toronto’s Challenge Cup adventure. Paul Rowley was rightly furious with his side’s performance, as they blew their opportunity to strengthen their image and attracted attention for all the wrong reasons.