Champagne flowed, beer was guzzled and a trophy was hoisted Saturday as the first-year Toronto Wolfpack moved up the English rugby league ladder.
Rugby’s first transatlantic team defeated a tough Barrow Raiders side 26-2 to secure promotion to the second-tier Championship with one game remaining in the season.
Eighteen unanswered second-half points secured the victory that assures Toronto (19-1-1) of the Kingstone Press League 1 title and the automatic promotion berth that comes with it.
Coach Paul Rowley praised the hard work and sacrifice of his players, saying they toil “for rewards that are nowhere near what other sportsmen get.”
“We came together as a bunch of individuals, we became a family of players and staff,” he added. “And then we got some new additions to the family — that’s the people of Toronto who are here today.”
Barrow (17-3-1) made the Wolfpack work for everything for the first 50 minutes before a season-high attendance of 7,972 at a sunny Lamport Stadium. But Toronto pulled ahead with converted tries in the 53rd, 55th and 59th minutes as holes opened in the tiring visitors’ defence.
“We’re champions, we’re proud of it and this is the start of something special,” said hooker Bob Beswick after downing what looked to be the first of many cans of beer.
Added Rowley: “This is a success already and the rugby league world needs to take notice. This is the future, this is the future of sport not just rugby league. The world is a smaller place.”
Toronto now has its sights on the elite Super League. But it will have to get through the Championship first.
✨KINGSTONE PRESS L1 CHAMPIONS✨
We have earned promotion to the Kingstone Press Championship. Thank you to everyone for your support! ✨🙏🏉 pic.twitter.com/LdSorVC8pT
The Wolfpack, a fully professional side albeit one with a small squad, had its way with semi-pro opposition in the third tier. Playing in the Championship means tougher, full-time foes.
Beswick is convinced the sky’s the limit.
“I’m not sure what the owners are thinking, I’m not sure what the fans are thinking but we’ve had what nearly 8,000 here today for a sport nobody’s…