Toronto Wolfpack overcame a difficult first half against the Batley Bulldogs to prevail by 8 points at Mount Pleasant. The historic ground features a slope which favoured the home team in the first half and aided them in leading by 6 points at the break. Running down hill in the second half, Toronto demonstrated their class to take control of and win the match. Fullback Gareth O’Brien starred for the Wolfpack, scoring three tries in 12 minutes. The win marks the Wolfpack’s sixth victory in a row.
The Wolfpack got off to a strong start through captain Josh McCrone who scored from an individual effort, beating Batley’s second rower for pace and reaching out to score. Batley’s forward pack looked to be outmatched in the early exchanges, running up hill took its toll on Toronto who made some soft errors and gave away too many penalties. As a result they couldn’t build any pressure on Batley’s try line. Following three penalties in a row to the Bulldogs, Batley levelled up as playmaker Pat Walker grubbered into the in goal area for James Harrison who proved more desperate than the Wolfpack defense to reach the ball first.
Toronto looked dangerous on the stroke of half time, putting together a backline move which looked to have outflanked Batley’s defense, but a desperate play by Bulldogs winger Wayne Rettie batted the ball into the air and claimed an interception. It was then a footrace between Rettie and Toronto halfback Ryan Brierley. Rettie prevailed to the delight of the home crowd, but appeared to dislocate his shoulder in diving over the line.
O’Brien stamped his mark on the match in the second half with a rapid fire hat trick. In his first try he isolated a Bulldogs defender one on one close to the line and crashed over. His next two tries were practically carbon copies of each other. O’Brien hit the ball in back line moves at pace before throwing a dummy and stepping off his right foot to beat the defense and slide over. With the match in control, back rower Jack Bussey sealed victory for the visitors after running a hard line against the grain and taking a short ball from McCrone to run over and place the ball down under the posts. Batley scored a consolation try on the stroke of full time through Brad Day.
Toronto solidified their spot on top of the Betfred Championship table and look ahead to a match up with mid table Dewsbury rams next week. Front rower Sam Hopkins may have a case to answer with a dangerous tackle for which he was sin binned in the closing minutes of the match. Batley Bulldogs have slipped 4 points shy of the top 4.
Toronto Wolfpack 26
Tries: McCrone (7), O’Brien (50, 54, 61), Bussey (70)
Goals: Brierley 3/5
Batley Bulldogs 18
Tries: Harrison (12), Rettie (40), Day (80)
Goals: Walker 3/3