Toronto Wolfpack win ill-tempered rugby league home debut handily

Wolfpack romp to ill-tempered home win

TORONTO — Rugby league landed in Toronto with a bang Saturday as the fledgling Wolfpack ran, tackled and punched their way to a lopsided 62-12 win over Oxford RLFC in its home debut.

When the dust settled, there had been 14 tries, three red cards and two yellows before an announced crowd of 6,281 on a grey, moist afternoon at Lamport Stadium.

The fans saw a bit of everything, including several punch-ups that resembled old-time hockey line brawls. Toronto, rugby league’s first transatlantic team, finished with 10 men after Jake Emmitt and Blake Wallace were red-carded after a melee in the 68th minute while Sean Penkywicz was yellow-carded in the 71st.

Oxford captain Callum Windley was also ejected in the 68th-minute fight that escalated to punches after Emmitt was yellow-carded but stayed on the field to pursue his beef.

Toronto wing Liam Kay was yellow-carded earlier in the second half for throwing a punch in another brouhaha.

Toronto coach Paul Rowley said the flashpoints were fuelled by a string of incidents that were not policed properly earlier in the game

“We shouldn’t react,” he said. “But what I will say is you only get punched so many times. We’ll protect ourselves. We’re not soft, we’re not mugs. I would expect my players to protect themselves. If the officials can’t protect us, then we’ll do it ourselves. But it just ruins the game really.

“The correct manner of doing it is to deal with the perpetrators from the off and that wasn’t done today, in my opinion. But we should be better, definitely.” 

Andrew Dixon, Richard Whiting, Jonny Pownall and Ryan Brierley scored two tries apiece for Toronto (6-0-0) while Wallace, captain Craig Hall, Greg Worthington and Ryan Burroughs added singles. Hall kicked seven conversions.

Casey Canterbury scored both tries for Oxford (2-3-0) with Harvey Burnett adding two conversions.

The Wolfpack players exchanged high-fives with jubilant fans on their way off the field before congregating in their spartan dressing room for a rousing rendition of their victory song, “Wolfpack on Fire.”

Wolfpack CEO Eric Perez was delighted by the result and the turnout.

“I’m super-pleased,” he said. “Because it was very easy for a lot of people to be turned away by the weather report. According to the weather there were going to be boats floating in the streets — people were going to be doing frontstrokes and backstrokes to get to the game.”

The Toronto home debut came a little more than a year after the ground-breaking franchise was announced.

The Wolfpack are starting life in the third tier of English rugby league — the Kingstone Press 1 — with an eye to winning promotion to the second-tier Championship and then the elite Super League.

And they are willing to spend money to get there. The franchise, aided by a sponsorship deal with Air Transat, agreed to pay travel and housing costs for all visiting teams until Toronto climbs its way to the Super League.

Oxford, which arrived 10th in the 16-team league, travelled 5,625 kilometres for the match. Its last road trip was 400 kilometres to Barrow, where it lost 64-14 in the League 1 Cup. 

A full professional side, the league-leading Wolfpack have largely dominated their semi-pro opposition, winning all five of their previous matches with a 310-37 scoring edge.

Toronto defeated amateur side Siddal ARLFC and the London Broncos of the Championship in the knockout Ladbrokes Challenge Cup before falling to the Super League Salford Red Devils 29-22.

On Saturday, Toronto was without veteran props Fufui Moimoi and Ryan Bailey due to visa red tape. Loose forward Jack Bussey was suspended while second-rower James Laithwaite is a longterm casualty with a cracked bone in his neck.

It’s just a short stop in Toronto this time for the Wolfpack, who leave Tuesday for a game Friday at the Newcastle Thunder.

Then it’s another plane ride and a pair of games in Toronto.

The Wolfpack home, at least to start with, is 42-year-old Lamport Stadium, a rudimentary 9,600 capacity venue that has no cover and no fills.

The fans were restricted to the east stand to start with but were allowed into the west stand as numbers grew. There was a festive feel to the game, helped no doubt to the craft beer tenets at the north end.

During halftime, the crowd was entertained by the She Wolves, the club’s cheerleaders. And during the game, the PA announcer repeatedly asked the fans to howl their approval. 


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

GW Graham basketball star signs on with Trinity Western Spartans

Grizzly grad Jaya Bannerman is opting to stay close to home after graduating in June.

Auditors couldn’t tell if Fraser Health executives bought booze on taxpayers’ dime

Review from 2014 says one administrator bought Bose headphones on company credit card

WATCH: Giant Flowers artwork going up at Evans roundabout in Chilliwack

The artwork installation Tuesday was causing very little traffic disruption for Chilliwack drivers

Nature festival, musical science and more for spring break fun

Chilliwack’s libraries, ice rinks and favourite family spots offer up plenty to do

Experts detect risk of rock avalanche above Bridal Falls near Chilliwack

Risk in the one-in-10,000-year is minimal but triggers FVRD to direct growth elsewhere

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Golden Knights win 4-1, remain undefeated against Canucks

Vegas gets points from 12 players in dominating effort versus Vancouver

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Langley City hits up province for share of pot revenue

The province says it understands municipalities will face extra costs when marijuana is legalized.

B.C. climber remembered for gentle spirit, love of mountains

Marc-André Leclerc had been hearing the call of the mountains since childhood

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

New anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C.

Centre aims to help ‘vulnerable individuals on the path to radicalization’ before they turn to crime

B.C. bravery, public service honoured by Governor General Julie Payette

UVic basketball coach Kathryn Shields inducted into Order of Canada

Most Read