Andy Ackers scored two second half tries to inspire Toronto to a comfortable 30-6 win over title rivals Widnes.
The game was staged at Kingston Park in Newcastle as part of a double header which saw Newcastle Thunder go down to a 32-26 defeat to Doncaster in the first game.
Toronto took the lead in the 14th minute after Blake Wallace capitalised on a Widnes error. Gareth O’Brien kicked two goals to put the Wolfpack 8-0 ahead at half-time.
The Wolfpack came out firing in the second half and scored tries through Andy Ackers (2), Gary Wheeler and Ricky Leutele to clinch the two points.
Brad Walker went over for Widnes late on, but it was the Canadian club who finished 30-6 victors in the North East.
Three talking points
Sheer quality on show
As the team line-ups were announced an hour before kick-off, the amount of quality that were on the teamsheet was eye-opening considering it was a Championship fixture.
Toronto and Widnes both boast plenty of talent that is more than capable of playing in Super League. Gareth O’Brien, Ricky Leutele and Jon Wilkin were among those high-profile names in the Toronto squad, who would all do well in the top-flight.
Meanwhile, Widnes have the likes of Anthony Gelling, Liam Hood and Harrison Hansen at their disposal, who are equally as impressive on their day.
The line-ups illustrated just how much the Championship has improved over the last couple of years. The second tier has been competitive for a number of seasons, which is great, but it also has star quality now, too. It’s going to be a great year for the Championship.
But the star of the show was a man who has never played in Super League, Andy Ackers. The former Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves academy hooker made a huge impact when he came off the bench and bagged a brace. The ex-Golborne Parkside junior is a star in the making.
Leutele v Gelling battle
It was always going to be a tasty battle between – arguably – two of the best centres in the Championship as Leutele took on Gelling.
Leutele has won an NRL Premiership with Cronulla Sharks, while also picking up seven caps for Samoa on the international stage. Meanwhile, Gelling has won a Super League Grand Final and World Club Challenge with Wigan Warriors, as well as earning six caps for the Cook Islands.
Gelling came up with a number of big carries out of yardage for Widnes in the game, but it’s fair to say that Leutele won the battle this time. The Toronto star got on the scoresheet and looked dangerous every time he had the ball.
Toronto favourites for promotion by a mile
Toronto were already big favourites to win the Championship and gain promotion to Super League this year, but their win over Widnes proves that there is some distance between them and fellow favourites Widnes and Toulouse Olympique.
The Championship’s other full-time side – Toulouse – have had a shaky start to the season as well. They’ve lost to Leigh Centurions and Widnes but have beat Rochdale Hornets 42-12 at home most recently.
So, judging by the first three rounds of the Championship, Toronto are massive favourites to win the Championship title and promotion by some distance and rightly so, given their wage bill.
Line-ups & ratings
Toronto: O’Brien (7); Higson (7), Wheeler (7), Leutele (8), Russell (6); Mellor (7), Wallace (6); Sims (8), McCrone (7), Springer (7), Dixon (6), Thompson (6), Wilkin (7). Subs: Sidlow (8), Ackers (9), Lussick (7), Olbison (8).
Tries: Wallace, Ackers (2), Wheeler, Leutele Goals: O’Brien 5/6
Widnes: Owens (7); Ashall-Bott (5), Brand (8), Gelling (7), Ince (5): Craven (7), Lyons (6); Tangata (5), Hood (7), Hansen (7), Wilde (6), Dean (7), Leuluai (7). Subs: T Chapelhow (6), Johnstone (7), J Chapelhow (6), Walker (6).
Tries: Walker Goals: Owens 1/1
Toronto simply blew Widnes away in the second half, and their middles were remarkable.
The likes of Ashton Sims, Darcy Lussick, Tom Olbison and Adam Sidlow made their presence felt and really took it to their opposite numbers. They got a roll on in the second half, and that was the difference in the end. Hooker Andy Ackers was sensational when he came off the bench as well and added zip and creativity to Toronto’s attack.
As for Widnes, coach Kieron Purtill can be proud of his side’s first half display. They only trailed 8-0 at the interval and they played some great stuff in the first half. However, they were poor in the second 40, but they simply ran out of juice after the likes of Olly Ashall-Bott, Adam Tangata and Danny Craven suffered injuries.
Toronto have got to gain promotion this year, haven’t they?
Elsewhere in the Championship
Toulouse secured their first win of the second as they eased past Rochdale 42-12 in France, while Doncaster won 32-26 against Newcastle.
Sheffield Eagles caused an upset as they beat Bradford Bulls 24-10 at the Olympic Legacy Park on Friday night.