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Toronto Wolfpack fullback Gareth O’Brien scores against the Rochdale Hornets during round 2 Betfred Championship rugby league action in Rochdale, U.K., on Feb. 10, 2019.

Stephen Gaunt/The Canadian Press

Winger Matty Russell scored four tries Sunday as the Toronto Wolfpack cruised to a 58-6 win over the Rochdale Hornets in Betfred Championship play.

The game was a matchup of the top and bottom teams last year in the second tier of English rugby league.

Toronto, which topped the Championship at 20-2-1 in 2018, was coming off a season-opening 14-0 win at York City Knights. Rochdale, which finished at the bottom of the 12-team Championship last season with a 4-19-0 record, had its opener — against Dewsbury Rams — called off because of a frozen pitch.

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Quick ball movement by the Toronto backs led to Russell’s quartet of tries, all in the left corner.

“Ricky did all the work really. I just had to put them down,” said Russell, referencing newly acquired star centre Ricky Leutele.

Leutele, Joe Mellor, Gareth O’Brien, Darcy Lussick, Chase Stanley, Jake Emmitt and Adam Sidlow also scored tries for Toronto, which led 26-6 at the half. O’Brien booted seven conversions.

Adam Lawton scored the lone try for the Rochdale part-timers. Dan Abram kicked the conversion.

“I thought our defence was soft in the first half. They made too many metres on us ... We’ve got to tighten up there,” Toronto forward Jon Wilkin said.

“We’re pleased with the result but we’ve got a lot to work on,” he added.

Toronto will face a stiffer test at Widnes (2-0-0) next Saturday. The Vikings, relegated after last season, downed Toulouse 36-24 on Saturday.

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“We’re looking forward to it ... a big test for ourselves,” Toronto coach Brian McDermott said.

The Wolfpack threatened early in the rain at Crown Oil Arena and Russell dove over in the corner on Toronto’s third possession for a 4-0 lead in the seventh minute.

Mellor scored Toronto’s second try in the 15th minute, running through Rochdale’s defence after an Ashton Sims offload kept the attack alive. Mellor played provider in the 18th minute, beating several defenders before feeding O’Brien for the score. Another Sims offload played a part in the try.

Lawton, on loan from Super League side Salford, crashed through the Toronto defence from close-range to put Rochdale on the board in the 21st minute after a Wolfpack kickoff error.

After Rochdale was penalized for a high tackle, Lussick powered his way over from close range in the 25th minute to add to the Toronto lead. Leutele, a marquee off-season signing from Cronulla Sharks, opened his Wolfpack account in the 29th minute to close out a set triggered by a Blake Wallace line break.

Rochdale hooker Liam Carberry was forced to leave in the first half with a facial injury.

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A Wolfpack try early in the second half was waved off for a forward pass. And Toronto went down a man for 10 minutes when Wilkin, a former England forward, was sin-binned in the 44th minute for talking back to the referee.

Playing with 12 men proved to be no problem as Russell scored his second in the 48th minute and Stanley added another in the 53rd. Russell notched his third in the 55th minute off a quick attack by the backs.

Tries by Emmitt (58th minute), Russell (73rd) and Sidlow (76th) kept the scoreboard ticking over.

The teams had met twice before in 2018, with the Wolfpack winning 18-17 in Round 7 and 52-10 at home in Round 15.

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