Toronto Wolfpack roar into life with thumping win in London
Toronto Wolfpack, the first transatlantic team in Rugby League history, got their pursuit of Super League action underway in style, hammering London Skolars 0-76 on Saturday.
A record crowd of 1,540 turned out at New River Stadium to see the Canadian side make their league debut and the Wolfpack did not disappoint, running in 13 tries to ease to victory.
Former New Zealand international Fuifui Moimoi was the stand-out player, picking up three tries and breaking dozens of tackles.
Captain Craig Hall had an impressive day with the boot, kicking 12 goals and he scored a pair of tries himself as the fast 4G pitch suited Toronto’s slick style of play.
Head coach Paul Rowley was thrilled with his side’s effort, a week after a testing 6-14 victory at Siddal in the Challenge Cup.
He said: “Our start was strong, we built momentum and we were pretty hard to stop. We have the potential to do that on any given day.
“I think I could have put 13 people from the pub on the field last week and the score line would have been low. It was a mudbath which generally is a leveller. This week it was a fast track and that suits us.”
Boasting a squad with a number of former Super League players and ex-internationals like Moimoi, Toronto are expected to dominate in League One this season but Hall was quick to pump the brakes on any lofty aspirations.
He said: “We want to be in Super League, of course. We’ll take this year as it comes, hopefully progress onto the Championship and then build on that but we can only take it week by week right now so we’ll move onto Whitehaven.”I think a lot of people went to their first rugby league match today and I don’t think it’ll be their last.”
The inflated crowd was filled with Canadian flags and hats, as London’s large ex-pat community turned out in force to cheer on the Toronto-based side.
They were treated to an on-field and off-field spectacle, as a Bryan Adams tribute band thumped out crowd-pleasing tunes for the loyal Canucks after the final whistle.
It was an intriguing glimpse at the wide appeal the trans-Atlantic team hopes to attract, and it didn’t avoid the attention of the players and coaches.
Rowley said: “We’ve noticed the fans, especially coming to London, just being here today and the enthusiasm for it and the excitement when people like Fuifui Moimoi got the ball.
“I think a lot of people went to their first rugby league match today and I don’t think it’ll be their last.”
Moimoi, who earned man-of-the-match honours, agreed.
He said: “I didn’t expect to see the fans here. It’s good to see them in England supporting the team and hopefully the fans will be out back home - I’m looking forward to it.”
The 37 year old former Parramatta Eel endured a torrid debut last week, earning a red card late in the game for a high tackle, but he was at his brilliant best on Saturday.
His direct running style was too much for Skolars defenders to handle, as he consistently broke the gain-line and earned the admiration of his head coach.
Rowley said: “He’s box office. You’d pay money to watch Fuifui. I’d pay money to watch Fuifui. He’s a sportsman who’s been at the very top of the game, we’re privileged to watch him play.”
When asked if he would have believed them if someone had told him he would be playing for a team from Toronto in London five years ago, Moimoi smiled.
“Nah” he said, shaking his head. “It’s a bit unreal. It’s a good experience and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”