Toronto Wolfpack finish season with perfect record

SALE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: A generic Rugby Ball during the International match between England U18 and Australia Schools at Heywood Road on December 13, 2009 in Sale, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
SALE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: A generic Rugby Ball during the International match between England U18 and Australia Schools at Heywood Road on December 13, 2009 in Sale, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Wolfpack beat Hemel Stags 74-16 to win a record setting 15th game to finish top of the Kingstone Press League 1 with a perfect 15-0 record.

In their inaugural  season, the Toronto Wolfpack become the first team since expansion to win every game in the regular season. Toronto breaks Toulouse’s record who won 14 games and drew one last season.

The win signals the end of the regular season which means Super 8’s are next. In the Super 8’s the Wolfpack will play the top 7 teams one more time. Starting with three games on the road in England and ending with four games at Lamport.

Points carry over for the Super 8’s which means Toronto (15-0) will be the number one seed. Who they play and where will depend entirely on how results go in England, with everyone else finishing the season on Sunday.

“We’ll have to be better,” head coach Paul Rowley said after the game. “I don’t think there will ever be a week where we don’t try and improve or are happy with what we’re doing.”

After Super 8’s have concluded the team still top of League 1 will be automatically promoted to the Championship.

“If all goes well we’ll be lifting the League 1 trophy at home,” Wolfpack CEO Eric Perez said after the All Golds victory last week.

Unlike last season where Toulouse were shocked in a promotion final against Rochdale Hornets 24-22, despite finishing first in the Super 8’s by eight points. This year the top team in Super 8’s gets an automatic promotion.

It was a flying start to the game from the Wolfpack when birthday boy Craig Hall scored a pair of tries in the first five minutes. This dominate would continue with the Wolfpack up 22-0 in under 15 minutes.

Credit goes to the Hemel Stags (1-14) who showed real spirit throughout the game despite having the worst record in league 1 going into the match. Marcus Elliot shocked the crowd finishing off a great team move on 21 minutes, to the delight of all his teammates who mobbed him in elation.

“Credit to Hemel, their courage and endeavor brought them into the game, every point they scored they deserved,” Rowley said after the game. “I’ve got a lot of respect for how they applied themselves today.”

It was Rowley’s own team that had to keep up their professionalism, not just in this game but throughout the season. The Wolfpack outscored their opponents by a combined 759 points throughout 15 games.

“What’s been difficult is concentration can lapse. To maintain any sort of standard, when you know you are going to win the game.” Rowley said when asked about the difficulties they’ve face this season.

“To maintain a focus and desire, a willingness to play hard, I think that’s a testament to the players and their attitude, that we’ve been able to do that on a weekly basis.”

Captain Hall personified that professionalism with his four tries and work rate throughout. All through sports, competitiveness is what drives athletes, with all due respect to the semi-professional teams that have played Toronto, the games have not been close.

“We had words last week, I think there was quite a few of us who had not quite the right attitude,” Hall said after the game. “It’s hard to be the favourites every week and have teams coming here to beat us, but I think the lads have been very professional on and off the field.”

After the game, there was a special press conference where 18-year-old Canadian Quinn Ngwati of Victoria B.C., was given a three-year professional contract with the Wolfpack. Paul Rowley described him as a rough diamond, who got his first taste of action last week in the win over the All Golds.

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“Anyone who starts playing a sport, it’s alway your goal to play professionally” a delighted Ngwati said after signing his contract, “It’s the culmination of all the work I’ve done. But I know that it is just the start.”

There was a record crowd of 7,247 at Lamport stadium in the July sunshine. Throughout 15 games the team has yet to post a sellout (Lamport holds roughly 9,000). Rowley addressed the crowd after the game, thanking them for their support and encouraging them to bring their friends to the Super 8’s.

The atmosphere was electric particularly when crowd-favourite Fuifui Moimoi got on the ball. With less than 10 minutes left in the game speedster, Liam Kay broke the defensive line and ran 70 yards upfield.

Despite being the oldest player on the field, the first player to receive the ensuing pass was Moimoi who ran full tilt in for a try.

“That’s just how I played back home in Australia,” Moimoi said when asked about getting the crowd off its feet, “I love the crowd, I love the support, it’s amazing they turn up to the games every week.”

Dan Fleming waited until the final moments of the season to score his first try. The 25-year-old did a spin move around a defender to finish a play under the stick with 60 seconds left in the game.

Another key player came back from injury with Blake Wallace returning at stand-off. The Australian followed in his captain’s example with a hat-trick of tries himself and ran the offence alongside Rhys Jacks.

Next: R.J. Barrett leads Canada to first ever FIBA U19 Gold

Wolfpack Tries- Craig Hall (4), Blake Wallace (3) Jonny Pownall, Liam Kay, Bob Beswick, Steve Crossley, Fuifui Moimoi and Dan Fleming

Stags Tries- Marcus Elliot, Jack O’Brien and Mark Barlow

Wolfpack Converts- Craig Hall (11/13)

Stags Converts- Mitch Vincent (2/3)