By Sam Taylor
Toronto Wolfpack made history at the weekend when they played their first competitive fixture against an amateur team from the outskirts of Halifax. No, not Halifax in Nova Scotia but Halifax, Yorkshire.
The Canadian side are the first transatlantic sports team, after it was announced that they would join League One in April 2016.
They made their competitive debut against National Conference League champions Siddal in the third round of the Challenge Cup. The match was played in typical Yorkshire winter conditions, which made it into an old school game of rugby league – rain, mud and even a red card for a clothes line from Fui Fui Moi Moi.
A cup shock seemed to be on when Siddal were 8-6 ahead with only 15 minutes to go, but late tries from Greg Worthington and Adam Sidlow secured a 16-8 victory for the Wolfpack.
The game stirred interest in the UK as the game drew in a crowd of 1,023, an unheard attendance for a match staged at an amateur club. This included a couple of fans from Canada.
On top of this, the BBC livestreamed the game on their website, and just under 40,000 people tuned in to watch, with many more watching the game later on the iPlayer. In the previous round, the viewing figure online was only around 20,000 for the match between Pilkington Recs and Siddal.
BBC commentator Dave Woods announced midway through the second half that #bbcrl was trending on Twitter in the UK. Tweets came from the all over the world to congratulate the efforts of Siddal, Toronto and Nick the cameraman, who had to wipe the lens numerous times during the match.
— Anthony Williams (@bullsboy) February 25, 2017
Both of the main Toronto newspapers, the Star and the Sun, had match reports on their websites hours after the final whistle. CFJC Today, in Kamloops, 4,000km from Toronto, also had a match report on their website.
UK national papers also covered the cup tie. In the Guardian’s match report, there was comment from a Toronto resident who said that they were new to rugby league but they were now hooked to the game, commending the efforts of the Siddal players.
Toronto start their League One campaign this weekend away to London Skolars while Siddal begin their NCL title defence away to Pilkington Recs.