Brighouse players formed a guard of honour to wave their cosmopolitan visitors off of the pitch after a late Nathan Campbell breakaway try gave a mud-splattered Toronto Wolfpack select victory in their first ever game.
Only die-hard Rangers followers would begrudge the side dubbed by their own coaching staff as “Benetton”, due to the eclectic nature of the recently united side’s heritage, an initial success in typical West Yorkshire conditions so alien to many of a squad drawn from everywhere from the heat of Jamaica to the frozen climes of North America and Canada.
Over 500 people packed the touchline to welcome the transatlantic hopefuls on a chilly but dry afternoon and Toronto’s inexperience, under a week together with just four training sessions, left them under the gun for much of the first half.
A glut of handling errors from the men in black helped Pennine League One Rangers run three first half tries to forge a 16-12 interval advantage.
Elusive scrum half Ben Drennan set the ball rolling, running around the blind-side of a scrum to score after just minutes.
Local recruit Connor Clayton, a former Halifax junior, hit back for Toronto, darting through from dummy half, but impressive centre Liam Stead and Gavin Midgley added further with Jamie Barraclough adding two conversions to give the hosts a 16-6 lead.
Teenage halfback Quinn Ngawati, just 17 from Vancouver, leapt to pluck a pin-point Matt Walsh kick from the air to pull a score back for the Wolfpack just before the break but further tires from another 17-year old Louie Sweeney, after fine off-load from Stead, and fullback Karl Frankland, who hacked on and chased
Drennan’s initial kick gave Rangers a three-score lead at 26-12.
Terence Williams completed a free-flowing move to the right, then Casey Clark grabbed another try in the corner just after the hour and it took a titanic defensive effort, including a great goal-line tackle from Bray and Drennan, to keep the resurgent Wolfpack at bay.
But, with barely five minutes left a Tye Elkins interception in his own half, helped forward by Marcus Satavu, enabled the supporting Campbell to swallow dive under the posts from 40 metres out and break home hearts with the try of the match.
Ngawati struck the winning conversion from in front of the sticks to finish with a try and four goals from five attempts, while Barraclough finished with three goals for Rangers from an often difficult six attempts.
Gamestar: Chad Bain shined while leading the newcomers, although Matt Walsh schemed and created well in difficult under foot conditions.
Gamebreaker: Nathan Campbell’s fine breakaway try near the end.
Lineup & Match Statistics
1 Karl Frankland
2 Reece Bray
3 Sam Hardcastle
4 Liam Stead
5 Louie Sweeney
6 Jamie Barraclough
7 Ben Drennan
8 Lee Robson ©
9 Troy Ambler
10 Cameron Bailey
11 Gavin Midgley
12 Ben Waud
13 Ben Wrightson
Subs (all used)
14 Jordan Sild
15 Anton Ambler
16 Richie McGade
17 Liam Pitman
18 Eddie Tankard
19 Harry Masterman
20 Paul Fairhirst
Tries: Drennan (4), Stead (17), Midgley (32), Sweeney (42), Frankland (48).
Goals: Barraclough (3/6)
Wolfpack RLFC Trialists
1 Sterling Wynn
2 Tye Elkins
3 Marcus Satavu
4 Terence Williams
5 Kenneth Walker
6 Quinn Ngawati
7 Matt Walsh ©
8 Chad Bain
9 Connor Clayton
10 Corrie Knox
11 Joe Eichner
12 Casey Clark
13 Tyronie Rowe
Subs (all used)
14 Emil Borggren
15 Nathan Campbell
16 Mark Gaddis
17 Andrew Zuluaga
18. Antonio Baker
Tries: Clayton (13), Ngawati (36), Williams (59), Clark (62), Campbell (75).
Goals: Ngawati (4/5)
Scoring Sequence: 6-0, 6-6, 12-6, 16-6, 16-12, 20-12, 26-12, 26-16, 26-22, 26-28.
Penalty count: 3-6
Referee: Chris Campbell
Coach Paul Rowley heralded Toronto Wolfpack’s first ever match as “a great day for rugby league” at the end of “a special week” for his squad of largely North American trialists.
Months of scouting from Adam Fogerty and his team, huge investment from David Argyle and others, enthusiastic enterprise and moulding from Rowley and Director of Rugby Brian Noble all came to fruition on the soft but well-tended home turf of Pennine League Brighouse Rangers, who themselves were given enormous credit for the whole venture.
Rowley beamed: “We have witnessed the start of something new – the day that Toronto played their first ever game was here at Brighouse.”
“A great day for rugby league with a really enthusiastic crowd.”
“No-one came with any expectations so no pressure yet no-one has left this game unhappy – the result didn’t matter.”
“Although the drama of the win is a fitting end to a special week for a bunch of guys who came together as individuals at the beginning a few days ago and will be going home as a team and as a group.”
“We have learned about them all week and today showed up a few frailties in some people while exposing a few hidden qualities in others.”
“Brighouse were founder members of the Rugby League and this has helped put them back on the map.”
“I think they see the benefits of being associated with us and we clearly see the benefits of being associated with them.”
“We can help them on a coaching and recruitment front, to assist them in building an amateur club worthy of the superb facilities they have here.”
“We want it to be a true partnership and not just a take-take on our part.”
“We were disappointed when we were kicked out at the training ground in Bradford because we had set our hearts on it, but we might just have stumbled on a gold mine coming here to Brighouse.”
Noble also spoke of the untapped talent across the Atlantic, adding:
“There are a lot of athletes in North America looking for this opportunity.”
“We could have brought another 80 like we have seen today.”
“If we can get them to realise that there is a career path for them over here, it opens up so many possibilities.”
“I’ll talk to anyone about the benefits of having new athletes and a new fan base coming into the game.”
“We can’t carry on the way we are going and retracting back into the M62 corridor.”
Record crowd at Brighouse on an almost sunny day – about the best one can hope for in Yorkshire. The ground is soggy and damp which should favour the home team. Warmups complete and we ready for the start. Brighouse is a top level amateur club that finished top of their division last season. Now, halfway through their current season they appear reasonably confident. Fans are curious about the N. American’s and although these are only the Trialists, many feel this is the first game for the Wolfpack. Earlier in the day, the full wolfpack side played Halifax on the practice field in a semi-opposed game and finished with a 4-2 try margin after being down 0-2 at the half.
10 minutes in Brighouse scored 1st & converted 6-0
Connor Clayton (UK) scored a few minutes late to tie.
Quinn Ngawati converted 6-6.
Brighouse scored and converted again at approximately 20 minutes into lead 12-6.
Brighouse scored again shortly after to take momentum, but missed the conversion.
Score now 16-6.
Late in 1st, Quinn Ngawati skied above the defence to collect a Matt Walsh kick right at the tryline. Hugely athletic effort to keep the wolfpack in the game.
Quinn then converts to bring the score to 16-12 at the half.
End of first half a few minutes later.
Brighouse scored twice early in second half to take momentum; once off a kick and the second through nice passing. One try converted.
Score now 26-12 and the midway through second half. Wolfpack is struggling; Brighouse looks strong and confident.
Strong tackling by all the boys starts to slow the Brighouse machine.
Terrence Williams scored in corner 25 minutes in off quick passing by Sterling Wynn.
Quinn N. Was not able to convert making score 26-16. Brighouse seems unconcerned.
Casey Clark scores in the corner on the short side play 5 minutes later and Quinn converts a long kick to bring the score 26-22 with time starting to wane.
5 Minutes to go Brighouse pressing now and try to go wide; Ty Elkins picks a pass and slips by two defensemen, and as being held he slips the ball to Nathan (The Beast) Campbell who broke two tackles and slipped the last defender all while accelerating to the try line and leaving the rest behind. Score 26-26.
Quinn Nagawati converts and easy chip to put the Wolfpack on top 28-26.
Brighouse went a couple phases after the kickoff, then tried a nifty chip kick through that was scooped up by Ty Elkins at the final whistle.