Many commentators and fans would have you believe that today's game in Toronto was simply to determine who would have home advantage in the crucial promotion play-off Grand Final in a fortnights time, although Featherstone Rovers might have something to say about that next weekend.
The two sides which have dominated the 2019 Betfred Championship, Toronto Wolfpack and Toulouse Olympique XIII knew that victory today would both set them up with the home advantage for a fortnights time, and establish some momentum ahead of the Super League promotion game.
Toronto have won on two of the three occasions that the sides have met in 2019, the most recent being a 28-16 win in June. But Toulouse do know how to win against the Canadians, they recorded a 46-16 win back in March, Toronto’s only defeat of the season. The bookies, however, fancied a Toronto win.
A mistake under the high ball from the Wolfpack gifted Toulouse the first real opportunity but good defence from the home side kept their line intact.
The sides looked evenly matched in the opening exchanges but on ten minutes a Ricky Leutele line break saw him break for the line and find Joe Mellor insode to take the pass to go over from twenty metres our. Gareth O’Brien added the conversion for 6-0.
O’Brien was the provider, this time for Leutele as Toronto completed a length of the field try, blitzing the Toulouse defence who failed to slide, and seemed unable to make the necessary tackles. O’Brien missed the conversion, Toronto 10-0 ahead after seventeen minutes.
Toulouse responded immediately after Toronto spilled the kick off. Two good drives almost got the try before Mark Kheirallah made it over for the four pointer. The full back slammed his kick between the uprights, Toulouse back in the game.
On twenty-seven Toronto breached the Toulouse line again with a second from Leutele as he exploited a small gap down the left hand side to push past three defenders and ground over the line. O’Brien was off target again with the boot but the Wolfpack were 14-6 ahead and starting to look in control.
A Josh McCrone jinking run from twenty metres, on the half hour, saw the half back cross off a Leutele pass to edge Toronto closer to safety. O’Brien added the conversion for a fourteen point lead.
Two minutes later Joe Mellor added his second try of the half, dancing through a broken defence after an attempt to decapitate him. O’Brien kicked his third of the afternoon for a 26-6 lead. Now it was all one-way traffic.
Six minutes after the restart Liam Kay scored the sixth Toronto try which put the result beyond any doubt. The ball was moved along the line and ended up in Kay’s hands as he found a small overlap down the right corner to score. O’Brien pushed his kick wide of the posts.
William Barthau grabbed a Toulouse try as he burrowed under the Toronto defence and grounded under the cross bar on fifty-four minutes. Kheirallah added the conversion and the margin was back to eighteen points.
Mellor went close for Toronto but was held up just short. A fast play and a couple of touch passes saw Chase Stanley take the ball and dive over the line to ground. O’Brien kicked the touchline conversion between the uprights for 36-12.
Leutele completed his hat-trick on sixty-six as a dominant Toronto put Toulouse to the sword. Wilkin and Mellor provided the passes but Leutele stepped out of one tackle and fended off another on his twenty metre run to the line. O’Brien was again unable to add the conversion, having a poor day with the boot, but it no longer mattered, the Wolfpack had long since sealed the win.
A Kheirallah consolation on seventy-three was scored under the sticks picking up a kick through and grounding with aplomb. He converted his own try, but his side had just not been at the races. The Toulouse full back got his hat-trick two minutes later after a superb pass by by Paterika Vaivai set him free to run forty metres under the sticks. Again he added the conversion for 24-40.
The result was never really in any doubt but coach McDermott will be concerned that the home side seemed to ease off in the closing stages and allow Toulouse to get some credibilty on the scoreboard.
For Toronto, it is full steam ahead as they close in on Super League. Toulouse were second best on the day and will need a substantial improvement to have any chance in the Grand Final in a fortnights time, let alone get past an in-form Featherstone Rovers next weekend.
Wolfpack: O’Brien (4G), Kay (T), Stanley (T), Leutele (3T), Russell, Mellor (2T), McCrone (T), Mullally, Ackers, Sims, Dixon, Thompson, Wilkin. Subs: Wallace, Lussick, Springer, Olbison.
Olympique: Kheirallah (3T, 4G), Ader, Jassaume, Vaivai J, Marcon, Robin, Ford, Vaivai P, Marion, Puech, Mika, Curran, Bell. Subs: Barthau (T), Hepi, Evans, Bretherton.
Referee: Gareth Hewer.