CULBURRA Beach’s Jack Buchanan and his Toronto Wolfpack were held to a dramatic and hard fought draw by a tenacious Barrow Raiders side on a cold and wet afternoon in Cumbria at the weekend.
Fierce rivals in League 1 last season, both sides had hugely contrasting fortunes in round one; with Toronto comfortably dispatching Leigh in an impressive opening week, whilse Barrow were left licking their wounds after a heavy defeat at the hand of London Broncos.
The Wolfpack came into the game without Gerringong’s Ashton Sims, Joe Westerman or Cory Paterson but gave a first hit out of the year to Richard Whiting as well as handing Albanian born Olsi Krasniqi his competitive debut for the club.
The duo slotted in seamlessly, contributing heavily to the intense battle in the forwards.
In a game played in appalling conditions, this was a real war of attrition at times.
The heavy pitch made the contest a real slog and almost impossible for the free flowing rugby the Wolfpack have become known for but the Raiders played the conditions well, playing tough in the middle third of the field to really shut down Toronto and claim their well-earned point.
The opening exchanges were extremely testing for both sets of players.
As the wind and heavy hail swept through the ground from the opening kick-off, neither side were able to put together fluid attack, with a number of errors and penalties ensuing.
The Wolfpack marched down field the better of the two sides initially, but the Raider’s early scramble defence was up to the mark to keep the visitors at bay on a number of occasions, shutting down two clear scoring opportunities from Greg Worthington and Nick Rawsthorne.
The hosts eventually opened the scoring through the boot of Jamie Dallimore, who slotted over a penalty from close range after the Wolfpack were pinged for a high tackle.
Their lead didn’t last long however as Toronto got on the board a matter of minutes later, as Andrew Dixon crashed onto a neat short pass from Bob Beswick to score on the right to give the visitors a slender advantage.
A huge 40/20 from Ryan Brierley gave Toronto a golden opportunity to add to their tally before half time and they went within a whisker of doing so.
Andy Ackers, just onto the field from the bench, picked up a loose ball and reached the line however, referee Gareth Hewer ruled out his effort due to a knock on in the build-up.
Toronto made the perfect start to the second half through a well taken Nick Rawsthorne try.
The young ex-Hull FC back, who found himself on the wing in the absence of Liam Kay after half time, got the ball on the left in minimal space but was able to shoulder his way through three defenders to surge to the line for his first try for the club.
Ryan Brierley was wide with the conversion to keep the Raiders within a score.
Barrow refused to give in and continued to apply the pressure to the Wolfpack defence.
Their efforts were rewarded in dramatic fashion as substitute Dan Toal pounced on a QLT error to score on the left.
A tricky Dallimore kick trickled past the Toronto fullback who fumbled it into the path of Toal for the back rower to kick forward and score a converted try to bring the scores level heading into the final quarter.
Neither side gave an inch in some extremely energy sapping final stages with no-one able to get a breakthrough despite numerous close efforts from both sides.
Firstly, the Wolfpack did exceptionally well to deny the Raiders a late winner.
An outstanding effort from Whiting to charge down Dallimore’s field goal attempt in the final minutes was followed by a desperate last ditch tackle from skipper Josh McCrone on Shane Toal.
In the dying seconds Barrow’s defence then did just enough to stop Worthington snatching a late winner and send the Wolfpack home with just a share of the spoils.
Man of the match Whiting was left frustrated by the result but was confident the players would learn from this tough encounter.
“We’re disappointed not to get the win today. In the second half we put ourselves under pressure,” Whitling said.
“We made mistakes and gave away penalties that let Barrow back into the game and we were hanging on at one point.
“The conditions weren’t great but they are the same for both sides.
“We’re playing better sides this year and teams raise their game against so we’ll have to be better moving forward.”
Wolfpack head coach Paul Rowley was optimistic in his assessment of the game, happy in the approach and character his side showed to grind out a draw.
“It was no surprise that this was a really tough game,” Rowley said.
“We played really smart with a good attitude in the first half but Barrow were outstanding in the second half and their game management was very good.
“Our game management wasn’t the best right at the end but we’ll dust ourselves down and go again next week but we’ve come away from a tough place with a point which we’ll take.
“We’re not despondent at this result, the boys dug in and we’ll learn from this week and move on.”