After a long Betfred Championship season everything had come down to one final game. Eighty minutes stood between either the Toronto Wolfpack or Featherstone Rovers and a place in Super League in 2020.
Toronto, who have been nigh on unstoppable all season, had the home advantage as Rovers made their second international journey inside a week, having defeated Toulouse Olympique last weekend to earn their shot at the big time.
Toronto have won both encounters between the two sides in 2019 and came into the game on the back of a twenty-two match winning run which went back all the way to a loss in Toulouse in March. The bookies couldn’t see beyond a home win, but neither could they last season when the London Broncos upset the odds and secured promotion.
It was an end to end opening twenty-seven minutes. Toronto had the upper hand in terms of field position but sensational Featherstone defence kept their line intact.
An awful error from Liam Kay on twenty-eight minutes gifted Alex Sutcliffe the opening try as Toronto failed to deal with a Dane Chisolm kick thorugh allowing Sutcliffe to get his hand on the loose ball as Kay failed to get the ball dead. Chisolm converted brilliantly from the touchline for a 6-0 lead to silence the home support.
Four minutes later Josh McCrone crashed the Rovers line to get Toronto on the board. Gareth O’Brien pushed his goal wide of the post to leave his side trailing by 4-6 at the interval.
The Featherstone defence was like the Alamo at the start of the second half. They managed to hold firm until the fifty-sixth minute when Blake Wallace jinked his way to the line to score under the sticks. O’Brien blasted his conversion over the bar for a 10-6 lead.
Just after the hour mark Bodine Thompson took a Blake Wallace pass at speed and crashed over the line. O’Brien added the extras and the home support started to believe that they would be in Super League in 2020.
As the clock ticket to sixty-nine minutes Joe Mellor scored the fourth try for Toronto regaining his feet after the tacklers released him to take three steps to get the ball on the ground. Blake Wallace added the conversion for 22-6 and after a scare in the first half the Wolfpack were easing their way into Super League at the second time of asking.
Toronto ran down the clock with a seventy-ninth minute penalty goal after dissent from Rovers. Wallace doing the honours for a 24-6 win.
It was a brave effort from Featherstone, and at the interval Toronto must have been concerned that lightening would strike twice. But in the end the Wolfpack have finally achieved their dream and made it into the top flight for next seasons competition. The squad building and logistics will now begin as the other eleven Super League clubs will await their date for their transatlatic flight.
Welcome to Super League Toronto Wolfpack. Commiserations to Featherstone, it was a game too far at the end of a fantastic season.
Wolfpack: O’Brien (G), Kay, Stanley, Leutele, Russell, Mellor (T), McCrone (T), Mullally, Ackers, Sims, Dixon, Thompson (T), Wilkin. Subs: Wallace (T, 2G), Lussick, Springer, Olbison.
Rovers: Golding, Render, Hardcastle, Sutcliffe (T), Johnson, Chisolm (G), McLelland, Davies, Jones, Ormondroyd, Harrison, Bussey, Lockwood. Subs: King, Cooper, Makatoa, Albert.
Referee: Chris Kendall.