Super League: Toronto Wolfpack 10-28 Castleford Tigers
|Betfred Super League|
|Toronto (4) 10|
|Tries: Kay, Miloudi Goal: Wallace|
|Castleford (22) 28|
|Tries: Eden, Millington, Milner, Shenton, Mata'utia Goals: Richardson 4|
Toronto Wolfpack suffered a nightmare start to life in Super League with a crushing defeat against Castleford.
The Canadian outfit were only formed four years ago, but have gained two promotions in three years.
They handed a debut to big-money signing Sonny Bill Williams, but he could not inspire an opening win.
Liam Kay got Toronto an early try, but Cas hit back through Greg Eden, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Michael Shenton and Peter Mata'utia.
Hakim Miloudi scored a long-range consolation effort for Toronto on the hour mark, finishing by touching down and performing a flip, but his side were well beaten.
Daryl Powell's side finished fifth last season and lost to Salford Red Devils in the play-off semi-finals but have started this term with a comfortable victory against a potentially tricky opponent.
'The magic will come' for Williams and Wolfpack
Toronto became British sport's first transatlantic top-flight team when they beat Featherstone in last year's Championship play-off final, but saw their Super League bow spoiled by Castleford.
They were formed in 2016, starting in the third tier with the aim of reaching the top flight within five years, but achieved their ambition in just three.
Backed by mining millionaire David Argyle, they flexed their financial power with the headline-catching 'marquee' signing of superstar Williams and making the two-time Rugby Union World Cup winner the highest-paid player in either code.
Williams, who last played rugby league for Sydney Roosters in 2014, was the leading attraction on the opening weekend of the season and was greeted at Headingley with a rousing ovation - taking a number of selfies with fans when he arrived at the ground prior to kick-off.
After much fanfare, Williams entered the action from the bench on 27 minutes but his first touch of the ball was a forgetful one, spilling possession under pressure from Cheyse Blair.
Williams, the 2013 Rugby League International Federation Player of the Year, showed glimpses of his ability with a basketball-style pass which almost put Kay in in the second half but the move fizzled out, with his team-mates failing to build on their early spark.
"It was disappointing from a team point of view but from a personal it was great to get back out there," he said.
"It's an awesome atmosphere and for myself, the coach only wanted me to play 20-30 minutes maximum so I felt like I was getting a feel of it when I was out there.
"For me, I tried to do the little things well. There was nothing magical, but the foundations have been laid and we can work on that in a long season.
"The magic will come. If I'm doing the little things well, working back, passing and good on the kick-chase that is the foundations."
The story of the match
Toronto made the dream start with a try after five minutes, Kay latching on to Miloudi's grubber kick into the corner, but that was really all they had to celebrate.
The "hosts", playing their opening games in England because of snow and harsh weather conditions in Canada, were unable to deal with Castleford's speed and movement thereafter. They responded immediately through Eden's length-of-the-field try, bursting away after Miloudi was unable to collect a pass.
Prop Millington stretched over from Danny Richardson's short pass, Milner pounced on a loose ball and skipper Shenton finished off a sweeping move for a 22-4 half-time advantage.
Castleford added a fifth try in the second period, Mata'utai cruising in to extend their lead even further, and although Miloudi pulled a try back, it proved insufficient for Brian McDermott's men.
Toronto Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott on Sonny Bill Williams:
"I'm not really interested in summarising his performance.
"This is going to take some time and transition. He got through some tackles and carries.
"He got the biggest cheer of the day when he dropped the ball and got valuable game time."
Castleford coach Daryl Powell told BBC Radio Leeds:
"It's been a difficult week. a lot of players not training, three others not being certain of playing, so it's just been awkward and they're an awkward team.
"So for us to win it was important for us. It certainly wasn't our best performance by any stretch, but it's important that you get a win.
"I thought we handled it pretty well and the game died a little bit in the second half, but we'd got it won by then."
On Sonny Bill Williams: "He will definitely get better. Their big men including Sonny Bill passed the ball a lot and obviously he is an offload threat.
"But he has not played rugby league five years it will take him time to bed in. He is a good guy and brought a lot to the game in terms of column inches and will be great."
Toronto Wolfpack: Wallace, Kay, Miloudi, Leutele, Russell, Mellor, McCrone, Sidlow, Ackers, Mullally, Dixon, Olbison, Wilkin.
Interchanges: Springer, Singleton, Cunningham, Williams.
Castleford: Rankin, Eden, Shenton, Mata'utia, Olpherts, Trueman, Richardson, Watts, McShane, Millington, Griffin, Blair, Milner.
Interchanges: Massey, Smith, O'Neill, Hepi.
Referee: James Child (RFL).