Wolfpack suffer 1st-ever home loss at hands of Featherstone Rovers
Toronto sees 18-game winning streak come to an end
Featherstone Rovers defeated the Wolfpack 30-12 in their regular-season finale Saturday, handing Toronto its first-ever home loss and snapping its 18-match winning streak in Betfred Championship rugby league play.
Toronto's only other league defeat this season was a 47-16 setback at London Broncos on Feb. 25. Paul Rowley's team will now turn its attention to the post-season and its push for promotion to the elite Super League in the so-called Super Qualifiers.
The Lamport Stadium loss will sting, however. "Defend the Den" has been one of the Wolfpack's slogans since the transatlantic rugby team began play in 2017.
Toronto (20-2-1) came into the game having already clinched the second-tier Betfred Championship title. Featherstone, which came into the game in fifth place, needed a win — and some help from other results Sunday — to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Clock management is key
Featherstone (16-7-0) did its part, pressuring the Wolfpack offence with some big hits and finding holes in the home defence. The more energetic side, it also managed the clock well. The visitors led by 10 points at the half and did not crack in final 40 minutes before a season-high announced crowd of 8,217.
Keal Carlile, Jason Walton, Josh Hardcastle and Matty Wildie scored tries for Featherstone. Ian Hardman kicked four conversions and three penalties.
Ashton Sims and Adam Sidlow scored tries for Toronto. Ryan Brierley kicked two conversions.
The game saw the season debut of Toronto forward Quinn Ngawati, a 19-year-old from Victoria who became the first Canadian to play pro rugby league when he made two appearance last season in the third-tier League 1.
Trailing 16-6 at the half, Toronto closed the gap to four points on Sidlow's converted try four minutes into the second half. But Featherstone answered in the 49th minute via Hardcastle's converted try for a 22-12 lead.
A Hardman penalty upped the lead to 24-12 and Wildie's 69th-minute converted try made it 30-12.
Playoffs up next
The Super 8 Qualifiers feature the bottom four teams in the elite Super League and the top four in the Betfred Championship. They play each other once, with the top three guaranteed of a place in the Super League and the fourth- and fifth-place teams facing off to see who joins them in what has become known as the Million Pound Game.
The Super League participants will be Leeds Rhinos, Hull Kingston Rovers, Salford Red Devils and Widnes Vikings.
Fellow Betfred Championship side Toulouse Olympique (16-6-1) locked up its berth in the Qualifiers with a 44-18 win Dewsbury earlier Saturday.
London Broncos and Halifax can guarantee their Qualifiers place with wins Sunday. London is at Barrow Raiders while Halifax entertains bottom-of-the-table Rochdale Hornets.
Toronto knows it will play four games at home and three away in the Qualifiers. The Wolfpack will host Hull KR and Widnes and travel to Leeds and Salford. The full schedule is due out Wednesday.