The first palindromic date for nine hundred and nine years was marked with the first appearance of the Toronto Wolfpack in the Super League as they played their home fixture at Emerald Headingley as the opener of a double header when they took on the Castleford Tigers.
The full house signs were up at the now fully re-opened stadium for an historic three hours of rugby league as Castleford, Toronto, Hull FC and Leeds fans filed through the turnstiles.
It was a battle of two previous Rhinos coaches at their old stomping ground as Brian McDermotts’ Toronto took on Daryl Powells’ Tigers. Most eyes, especially those of the neutrals, will have been on the Toronto bench and a certain Sonny Bill Williams but the bookies fancied a Tigers win.
It ttok Toronto just under three minutes to open their Super League account when Liam Kay won the race to touch down a Hakim Miloudi grubber kick to the right corner. Blake Wallace pulled his kick to the right of the uprights.
Greg Eden responded after seven minutes with a length of the field try when Miloudi couldn’t take a looping pass. The Tigers winger picked up the ball and pinned back his ears to go ninety metres to score under the sticks. Danny Richardson marked his debut with his first conversion for a 6-4 lead.
Grant Millington stretched for the line on seventeen and scored the second for the Tigers to take advantage of some Wolfpack indiscipline. It was a terrific short pass from Richardson to put the prop forward over for a collectors item. Richardson was unable to add the conversion.
Sonny Bill Williams was welcomed onto the field on twenty-five for his Toronto debut.
On thirty Adam Milner didn’t give up chansing a Jordan Rankin grubber, which had ricocheted off a Toronto player, to get his hand on the ball to ground it under the uprights. Robinson added the goal for a 16-4 for the Tigers.
On thirty-four Michael Shenton pushed the Tigers lead to 20-4 as the Wolfpack defence found themselves without the numbers to cover the onslaught. Richardson was again unable to add the extra two. The Wolfpack were being totally outplayed and had few answers to all of the difficult Tigers questions.
Richardson kicked a penalty goal after the final hooter after a ball steal to seal a 22-4 first half lead.
Five minutes after the restart Chase Blair pushed his way over the line but was held up by a strong Toronto defence. On the next play Peter Mata’utia stepped through the Wolfpack defence to outfox four defenders and score. Richardson added the conversion for 28-4, the Tigers already with the points in the bag.
The Wolfpack scored a breakaway try through Miloudi on the hour mark after he intercepted a pass on the Toronto thirty metre line and went the seventy metres to score. Blake Wallace added the conversion to bring up the double figures for the Canadians.
On sixty-five Adam Sidlow was on hand to take a Joe Mellor pass and crash over the line from close. The on-field referee gave the try but was over-ruled by the video referee as Jake Trueman wrapped up the ball and prevented the try.
Richardson missed an apparently easy drop goal on seventy-five.
This will be a big wake-up call for the Toronto side with their dreams of a sensational start to their campaign now lying in tatters at the hands of a Tigers side who came with a game plan and stuck to it. Despite conceeding the first try, Castleford never looked in any danger as they built an unsurmountable lead to get their season off to a good start. Toronto will take some satisfaction from a second half which they drew 6-6 but after forty minutes it was time for the Tigers to shut up shop and defend their big lead for a season opening win.
Wolfpack: Russell, Leutele, Kay (T), Mellor, McCrone, Sidlow, Ackers, Mullally, Dixon, Wilkin, Olbison, Wallace (G), Miloudi (T). Subs: Springer, Singleton, Cunningham, Williams.
Tigers: Rankin, Eden (T), Shenton (T), Mata’utia (T), Olpherts, Trueman, Richardson (4G), Watts, McShane, Millington (T), Griffin, Blair, Milner (T). Subs: Massey, Smith, O’Neill, Hepi.
Referee: James Child.