Gareth O’Brien kicked 10 points to help the Toronto Wolfpack bounce back from six straight Super League losses with a dominant 18-0 victory Wednesday over the Huddersfield Giants in the fifth round of the Coral Challenge Cup.
Toronto looked nothing like the ragged outfit that absorbed a 66-12 hiding at the hands of the Leeds Rhinos last week. The Wolfpack offence was crisp and its defence controlled the error-prone Giants on a cold, wet and windy evening.
And the transatlantic rugby league team did it with marquee back Sonny Bill Williams, who did not figure in the matchday lineup.
While Toronto was coming off a season-low performance, Huddersfield dispatched defending champion St. Helens 12-10 last time out. It was St. Helens’ first loss in a home league game since August 2018.
Huddersfield (4-1-0) stands fourth in Super League but has yet to win at home this season. Toronto (0-6-0) is last in the 12-team Super league in its first season in England’s top tier.
While it was drawn as a Toronto home game, the Wolfpack have agreed to play all their cup contests away so the match was held at the Giants’ John Smith’s Stadium.
It was the first game for both teams in this year’s knockout competition.
Ricky Leutele scored two tries for the Wolfpack, who led 16-0 at the break. O’Brien added two conversions and three penalties.
Toronto struck early, with a good kick off its first possession forcing Huddersfield into a goal-line drop off. Helped by a penalty against the Giants, the attack continued and Leutele scored in the third minute – breaking several tackles after taking an inside pass from O’Brien.
Leutele scored again in the 10th, touching down a Josh McCrone grubber kick under the posts. An O’Brien penalty in the 27th minute upped the Toronto lead to 14-0.
Back-to-back penalties against Toronto gave Huddersfield a good offensive platform. But a turnover followed by a penalty let the Wolfpack off the hook. Toronto came back up the field and O’Brien kicked a another penalty.
Huddersfield began to exert some pressure 15 minutes into the second half, with the poor weather conditions not helping handling by either team. But the Giants could not take advantage.
Another O’Brien penalty in the 65th minute made it 18-0. The Toronto fullback had another shot four minutes later but his kick bounced off the post in a driving rainstorm.
Both team took their lumps during the match.
Huddersfield’s Adam O’Brien left the game in the 30th minute for a head injury assessment after taking a boot to the head making a tackle. And Toronto’s Hakim Miloudi needed treatment in the second half after a bone-rattling tackle.
The Wolfpack were without the injured James Cunningham (hamstring), Brad Singleton (knee), Matty Russell (groin) and Jon Wilkin (knee). The team parted ways with veteran back Gary Wheeler on Tuesday.
Wilkin had been putting off a procedure to have his knee cleaned out but it was decided it was finally time to see the surgeon to gauge the extent of the issue.
Halfback Joe Mellor, injured in Toronto’s second game of the season, returned from a broken hand and forward Darcy Lussick, starting on the bench, returned to action for the first time since pre-season hernia surgery. New Zealand international Chase Stanley played for the first time this season after being stranded by visa issues.
Hooker Andy Ackers played through the pain of torn ligaments between his toes.
The Wolfpack reached the fifth round of the knockout competition in their inaugural 2017 season, beating Siddal ARLFC and London Broncos before falling to the Salford Red Devils 29-22.
They went one better in 2018, dispatching Kells ARLFC and the Barrow Raiders to reach the sixth round where they were thumped 66-10 by the Warrington Wolves in a franchise-worst loss.
Toronto did not take part in the 2019 cup competition. Huddersfield has won the Challenge Cup six times, most recently in 1952–53.