Wolfpack recover from slow start to remain undefeated
Toronto wins 9th consecutive game in Kingstone Press League 1
The Toronto Wolfpack got off to a slow start Saturday but rebounded to overwhelm yet another rugby league opponent, defeating the Coventry Bears 54-12.
Toronto (9-0-0) has entered the third tier of English rugby league with an eye to winning promotion all the way to the elite Super League.
A fully professional side, the first-year Wolfpack have had their way with their semi-pro opposition. Toronto has a 536-85 overall scoring edge this season.
The Wolfpack, rugby's first transatlantic team, are 3-0-0 at home where they have battered the visitors 186-26. Announced attendance at Lamport Stadium on a sunny 21-degree Celsius afternoon was 7,236, following crowds of 6,281 and 7,144 for the first two home games.
Coventry (1-8-0) came into the game ranked 14th in the 16-team Kingstone Press League 1, giving up 40.5 points a game.
Coventry starts strong in Toronto
But the visitors proved a tough out in the early going, with the score 8-4 for Toronto after 30 minutes. Three tries in the last nine minutes of the half gave the Wolfpack a 26-6 lead at the break.
Andrew Dixon with the first try puts <a href="https://twitter.com/TOwolfpack">@TOwolfpack</a> on the board. Watch live here: <a href="https://t.co/sl4afXCmLO">https://t.co/sl4afXCmLO</a> <a href="https://t.co/D4l4kAx4zA">pic.twitter.com/D4l4kAx4zA</a>—@cbcsports
The home side was frustrated by penalties and handling errors. But as Coventry tired, Toronto kept the scoreboard ticking.
Despite the score, Coventry kept attacking but could not convert in what was billed as the "battle of the beasts."
Liam Kay scored three tries for Toronto while Andrew Dixon and Fuifui Moimoi had two and Bob Beswick, Ryan Brierley and Rhys Jacks added singles. Craig Hall kicked eight conversions.
'And away they go!' <a href="https://twitter.com/TOwolfpack">@TOwolfpack</a> lead Coventry 30-6 early in the 2nd half. Watch here: <a href="https://t.co/sl4afXCmLO">https://t.co/sl4afXCmLO</a> <a href="https://t.co/Wo0tOrCmyU">pic.twitter.com/Wo0tOrCmyU</a>—@cbcsports
Jamahl Hunte and Brad Delaney scored tries for Coventry. Delaney added a penalty and a conversion.
Plenty of Wolfpack debutants
Coming off a 68-point win over the previously unbeaten Barrow Raiders, the No. 2 team in the division, Wolfpack coach Paul Rowley dug into his roster for Coventry.
He used all four of his North American internationals: Americans Ryan Burroughs and Joe Eichner and Australian-born Jacks and Tom Dempsey who play for Canada thanks to their bloodlines.
Eichner, who earned a contract as a trialist, and Dempsey made their Wolfpack debuts coming off the interchange bench.
Quentin Laulu-Togaga'e, Dan Fleming and Steve Crossley sat out to make way for the North Americans. James Laithwaite, Blake Wallace, Gary Wheeler and Jack Bussey were injured while Jake Emmitt was suspended.
An eye to the future
Coventry, admitted into the third tier in 2015, came into the game having been outscored 324-140 this season.
The Bears have lost four straight in the league and conceded 40-plus points five times. They were knocked out of two cup competitions at the first hurdle.
Coventry coach Tom Tsang, 32, is working with a squad whose average age is 22. He looked at Saturday's game with an eye to the future.
"This league is the highest most of our players have played," Tsang said prior to the match. "You look at the other side — NRL [Australia's National Rugby League] experience, Super League experience, international experience.
"So for our guys who want to improve themselves and progress their careers, this is a really big opportunity to learn from what's a very very good team. And hopefully that can then help them in their future careers — just the experience and soaking up the atmosphere of the day and all that comes with it."
The Wolfpack are giving all proceeds from Saturday's program sales to the Manchester bombing relief campaign. Many of their players come from the Manchester area and two had family members at the Ariana Grande concert that was the subject of the attack. They escaped injury.