Toronto Wolfpack ready to turn it up a notch in rugby league promotion bid
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TORONTO — Having flattened everyone in their regular-season path, the unbeaten Toronto Wolfpack now turn their attention to the Super 8s playoffs.
While most would think the next seven matches will be more of the same, coach Paul Rowley says the first-year team will have to turn it up a notch in its bid to escape the third tier of English rugby league.
"We'll have to be better," Rowley said.
He does not think that will be difficult, however.
"I'd like to think we're worldly enough as a (coaching) staff to be ready for whatever teams are going to throw at us," he said. "But these (Super) 8s are going to be really tough. The places we'll visit in England are going to be tough. Everybody knows it.
"But you know what, this is where our jobs become easier because if these guys don't get up for those sort of games, then they shouldn't be in the game. ... I can't wait to play tough games week-in week-out."
Having played every other team in the table, the league-leading Wolfpack will be joined by the next seven teams in the Super 8s.
The eight carry their regular-season points forward. The club that leads after the Super 8s stage is automatically promoted to the second-tier Championship. No. 2 will then face No. 5 while No. 3 meets No. 4 with the winners meeting in a playoff to decide who joins them.
The Wolfpack, who leave Monday for their English training base, will open on the road against fourth-place York City, seventh-place Keighley and eighth-place Workington Town. Then they'll return home to face second-place Whitehaven, third-place Barrow, fifth-place Doncaster and sixth-place Newcastle.
Toronto (15-0-0) outscored those seven teams 386-95 during the regular season.
Teams have a week off before the Super 8s start.
The time off will help the Wolfpack, who were without the injured Ryan Brierley, Andrew Dixon, Quentin Laulu-Togaga'e, Sean Penkywicz, Ryan Bailey and Gary Wheeler in Saturday's 74-16 home win over the lowly Hemel Stags. Richard Whiting was at a funeral.
Rowley says all but Dixon should be good to go for the start of the playoffs. Halfback Blake Wallace returned on the weekend from an ankle injury, scoring three tries.
Forced to start life in the Kingstone Press League 1, the fully professional Wolfpack have had their way with their semi-pro opposition. Toronto has outscored its opponents 916-157.
But the Wolfpack enter the Super 8s with just a three-point advantage over Whitehaven (13-1-1), which defeated Barrow 32-6 on Sunday to secure second spot. Barrow (12-2-1) finished third, five points behind Toronto.
The Wolfpack won 24-10 in the slop at Whitehaven in Round 2, their closest game of the season. Toronto thumped visiting Barrow 70-2 in Round 8.
Toronto hopes to avoid the misstep made by Toulouse Olympique last season when the promotion playoffs were slightly different. The French side went 20-0-1 in the regular season and playoffs before losing 24-22 to underdog Rochdale in the first chance at promotion. Toulouse rebounded to beat Barrow 32-22 to move up.
The French side is currently fifth in the Championship with a 14-8-0 record.
Toronto is already preparing for life in the next level, readying several high-profile acquisitions. The existing members of the Wolfpack squad should get bigger pay packets with the promotion.
Toronto officially signed Canadian Quinn Ngawati after Saturday's game, securing the 18-year-old Victoria teenager through the 2019 season.
The win over Hemel (1-15-0) drew a Wolfpack-record crowd of 7,247 at Lamport Stadium.
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