Canada got its first home taste of Rugby League’s Super 8s this past weekend and they found it quite delicious. After struggling in the UK, the Toronto Wolfpack defeated the Newcastle Thunder 50-0 in the friendly confines of Lamport Stadium aka the Den. The offence was led by Liam Kay who not only opened the scoring but also finished with a hat-trick while QLT had a double on the day.
Despite the large margin of victory, it was the defence that came through. After giving up the opening try, Newcastle proved to be the better of the two squads dominating not only possession but territory. It was the Pack’s bend-not-break defence however that kept the Thunder from scoring at the early but crucial stage. If the visitors had scored at that point, the match may have resembled that of the previous week when Keighley earned a tie with Toronto. Instead, the Wolfpack do what they have done so well this season. They pound and pound and pound their opposition, wearing them down until they have submitted to their fate.
No disrespect to the Thunder who put in a tremendous effort throughout the game, but this, this was a game that the Wolfpack were just not going to lose. Their 15-0 record prior to the start of the Super 8s left many, including possibly the Wolfpack themselves, believing that not only was a perfect record for the entire season a possibility, it might even be a cakewalk. Playing the first three games in the UK and earning a mediocre record of one win, one loss and one tie ended both of those notions quite quickly. It wasn’t that they didn’t try hard during those games, of course they did, but for whatever reason they could not match the intensity of the York City Knights in their only loss, nor could they against the Cougars through most of the second half of that game.
This match meant too much to the organization both on and off the field that they weren’t going to let anything spoil it. The fans in Toronto hadn’t seen a home game in over a month and let it be known through social media that they couldn’t wait for its return. Some were doubtful that the first ever Rugby League playoff game would generate a large crowd as it competed with a Toronto Argonauts game that started 30 minutes earlier and was only a short walk away at BMO field. There was also the craziness of the Canadian National Exhibition which causes traffic and parking headaches for everyone in the area. Regardless of the obstacles, the Toronto Wolfpack were still able to get an attendance of 7522 which set a new team record. Nothing was going to prevent the team from making sure that each and every fan felt appreciated.
And appreciated they should be for they are one of the main reasons why attendance keeps rising. I spoke to three different Twitter friends at the match and each had the same story to tell. One had brought friends to the game that hadn’t been before. She spent the entire game explaining the rules as best she knows. Those new fans had an incredible time and will be back again. Another had brought in-laws to their very first match. Lastly, a third had brought a new person to the last home game versus Hemel. She had a fantastic time and together, they brought another newbie to their first game. All-in-all, these fans are having such a great experience that they are going out of their way to share it with friends and family. Those new fans seem to be coming back and bringing friends of their own to the party.
— The Wolfpack Pack (@WolfPackPackTO) August 19, 2017
The Den, ladies and gentlemen, is rocking and it has something for everyone. Enjoy the tactics and movement of the game? Then sit close to the top and pick out why some formations work better than others. Prefer the speed and physicality of the game? Then sit near the field and be up close to the speed of wingers Liam Kay and Johnny Pownall or the strength and brute force of props such as Fui Fui Moi Moi or Jake Emmitt. If instead you just want to relax and be with your friends over a pint, well, by now the Local Craft Beer Tents found in the North Stand are already legendary.
Unfortunately, the season is coming to a close and if all goes well, there are only 3 games left. The first two are must see as the Wolfpack play the other top teams in their league. Third place Whitehaven come to Toronto on September 2nd, while second place Barrow Raiders are in town the week after on September 9th. If you have the opportunity to get to a game, you should. If you find yourself being smitten by rugby league and the Wolfpack, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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