It was a monumental day in Super League on Sunday as the Toronto Wolfpack took on the Castleford Tigers in their Super League debut. In the build-up to their inaugural Super Rugby campaign, the Wolfpack signed former Sydney Rooster and All Black Sonny Bill Williams. Williams’ signing created quite the buzz on both sides of the Atlantic. The entire rugby league world had eyes on this match that not only welcomed the Wolfpack to Super League but one of rugby league’s biggest stars to the Northern Hemisphere.
The match got off to a dream start for the Wolfpack. On the 5th tackle, the Wolfpack chose to run the ball. Hakim Miloudi sent a brilliant grubber kick through toward the Castleford in-goal area. The Wolfpack’s leading try scorer Liam Kay raced down the touchline and pounced on the ball for the Wolfpack’s first Super League try just four minutes into the match. Blake Wallace, who was playing fullback for the absent Gaz O’Brien, missed the conversion. The Wolfpack found themselves quickly up 4-0.
The dream start would soon come crashing down. The Wolfpack remained in control of the play, but Castleford decided to show them what happens when you make a mistake at the highest level. With the Wolfpack once again threatening to score to 5th tackle, Josh McCrone fired an errant pass out of the reach of Miloudi. The ball went to deck and Greg Eden scooped it up and dashed 90 metres for the try under the sticks.
Castleford gained a 6-4 lead and never relinquished control of the game. Following Kay’s try, the Castleford Tigers rattled off 28 unanswered points. Miloudi would answer back with an interception try in the 60th minute that Wallace would convert to bring the score to 28-10. Sidlow would be held up over the line later in the game, but that would be as close as the Wolfpack would get and Castleford would leave HJ with a 28-10 victory.
The Wolfpack quickly learned how costly mistakes can be in Super League. There were far too many knock-ons, errant passes, and penalties that Castleford was able to take advantage of. Despite the errors, the Wolfpack were in this game for a while. That is until too many consecutive mistakes added up quickly. McCrone was again inaccurate with a pass that resulted in a Williams knock-on. That play was on the 5th tackle just inside Castleford’s half. Deciding to run and not kick off 5th tackle in that part of the pitch is unusual as well. The play resulted in a turnover and Castleford scored on their ensuing set to go up 16-4.
On the next restart, Gadwin Springer took a penalty on the first tackle for not allowing Castleford to pay-the-ball. Miloudi then doubled-down on the penalty and tried to strip the ball after the tackle was completed.
The two penalties allowed to Castleford to walk up the pitch and get a fresh set of tackles in excellent field position. Michael Shenton scored Castleford’s second try in just 4 minutes. Both tries were conceded on the backs of four Wolfpack errors; the decision to run on 5th tackle, the execution of the play, and the two penalties. Toronto was still within striking distance up until that point. Castleford extended a 10-4 lead into a 20-4 and the Wolfpack could not dig themselves out of that hole despite a closer second half.
Sonny Bill Williams entered the game in the 26th minute. His first touch of the ball resulted in a knock-on. He did take a few opportunities for some of his trademark offloads but otherwise had a quiet game. It was his first game of league in 5 years and it will probably be a few more before we get to experience the full extent of what he is capable of.
The Wolfpack looked to be playing a very expansive brand of rugby league. The looked to be getting the ball out wide to Miloudi, Kay, and Russell. This seemed to be stretching the Castleford defense quite a bit. If they can shore up those execution errors, they will be able to score plenty of tries with that strategy.
Ultimately, the Wolfpack learned a valuable lesson in this match today. Mistakes are far more costly in Super League than they were in the Championship or League1 and if you give a team an inch, they will take a mile. The Wolfpack will look to bounce back and earn their first Super League win next week when they take on the Wigan Warriors.
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