Brian McDermott returns to Leeds with Toronto Wolfpack

Brian McDermott
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The Toronto Wolfpack will face Leeds Rhinos at Emerald Headingley Stadium on Thursday, March. 5th. There are two main Wolfpack connections to the Rhinos organization. First, Brian McDermott, Wolfpack’s current head coach, was the Rhinos’ head coach for many years.

Brian McDermott won many trophies for Leeds as their head coach including four Super League titles, one League Leaders’ Shield, two Challenge Cups, and is a World Club Challenge winner. Second, the Wolfpack played against the Rhinos in 2018 and won a Rugby League Qualifiers game at Emerald Headingley Stadium. It has been the Toronto Wolfpack’s most impressive win in their short history. To read more on that victory read this previous article.

Unfortunately, former Leeds Rhinos and current Toronto Wolfpack player Brad Singleton a currently injured. According to BBC Sport, Singleton will be on the Wolfpack sidelines for the next four months. This is because he will undergo surgery on his knee after rupturing his lateral medial ligament.

Both teams are heading into Super League in very different forms. The Rhinos have won three of four games and the Wolfpack have lost all of their Super League games. First, this article starts with Leeds Rhinos, who have started the season with three wins and one loss.

Toronto Wolfpack vs. Leeds Rhinos game preview

Leeds Rhinos

The Rhinos were one of the most successful clubs across rugby league or union in the last decade. They won four championships, two Challenge Cups, and one World Club Challenge in the last decade. However, they have been mediocre since their 2017 Super League title. They finished in the bottom four in 2018 and were four points away from possible relegation in 2019. However, they started this season off strong with three wins and one loss.

Their most recent game against the Warrington Wolves resulted in a 36-0 win. They are in top form and will be a formidable opponent for the Toronto Wolfpack to defeat. This is especially true for the Toronto Wolfpack, who have lost their first five-ever Super League games in franchise history.

Toronto Wolfpack

The Toronto Wolfpack has been in existence only since 2016 and started play in 2017. They have experienced nothing but success in the first three years in existence. The only real setback they experienced was losing to the London Broncos in the 2018 Million Pound Game.

Gareth O’Brien will the player to watch in Thursday’s contest, as he scored the drop goal winner in 2018. This is still by far the most impressive win in Wolfpack history. As a result, Headingley Stadium is the only Super League stadium the Wolfpack have won a game in.

Keys of the Game

(a) Get a better Start

The Toronto Wolfpack has not started the game well in the last two games. They fell behind Warrington 16-0 in the first half and lost the game against St. Helens RFC. 32-0.  The Wolfpack though are capable of starting games on a high as they scored first in each of their first three games. Expect the Wolfpack to be fully prepared for the Rhinos and aim to score that first try in the game.

(b) Do not turnover the Ball, and Missed Tackles

As said before in previous articles, the Wolfpack’s biggest problem is their ball-handling errors. It is a big reason why the Wolfpack have not won a game yet in Super League. According to the Toronto Wolfpack website, of the 16 attempts, Wolfpack had only completed eight sets. They also missed 10 tackles.

Super League veteran of the Toronto Wolfpack talks about the problems they are facing:

“To be nilled by such a great defensive team in St Helens, there’s no shame in that. It was a shame how we attacked. I thought that was our problem. We just couldn’t get it going with the ball. There’s no easy games in Super League, they’re all tough and none are tougher than these guys tonight. They’ve been the best side in Super League for three years and you can see why.”

They will look to rebound to a Rhinos team that is in strong form but may not put their best team on their field. This is because of their Super League schedule where they must play two games in three days.

(c) Better Offence and Improved Defence

The Toronto Wolfpack has conceded the most points and scored the fewest points in Super League this season; something that will concern Brian McDermott greatly. The defence will come as they have been facing some really tough opposition so far. The problem is the offence as too many turnovers destroys the Wolfpack’s offensive momentum. Look for the Wolfpack to be more crisp and dominant at the offensive side of the ball.

Brian McDermott’s return to Leeds

This will be another tough game for the Toronto Wolfpack to win. The Rhinos are in top form as they are won three of their first four Super League games. They are currently fourth in Super League with the third highest points differential with a +/- rating of +66. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack are last in Super League with a points differential of -90.

The Wolfpack, under Brian McDermott, are underdogs again. The Rhinos are in good form and had the biggest win of the season so far with a 36-0 victory over the Warrington Wolves. The Leeds Rhinos are heavy favourites in this game. However, the Wolfpack have won at Emerald Headingley Stadium before in 2018.

This might be subjective, but it is possible the Wolfpack can win this game by a single point again. O’Brien can again step up for the Wolfpack with the winning drop goal winner. A prediction for the final score is 17-16 in favour of the Toronto Wolfpack.

The game will take place this Thursday at 2:45 pm eastern time (in Toronto) which is 7:45pm in the United Kingdom. In Canada, people can watch this game on Sportsnet World.

This update means the games being broadcast LIVE is much preferred for the loyal Wolfpack fans. Better than a taped delay broadcast although, in this case, a delay might have assisted. A lot of the Toronto residents are either working or going to school at 2:45 pm. Therefore, Wolfpack fans may have been more likely to watch the recorded game at 5:00 pm than at 2:45 pm.

Many will have to set their DVR to record the match, or search for replayed games on Sportsnet+.

With fans wanting home games, the concession of playing a trans-Atlantic schedule that also suits a British audience is the balancing act the Toronto stakeholders need to manage. Not all games will be scheduled early on a weekday afternoon – the Round 11 home game on Saturday April 18, will be played at 1:30pm. Perfect timing for a large home crowd at Lamport Stadium.

Facing Leeds Rhinos this week, it is a must-win for Brian McDermott. Gain a win over his old brigade, and add valuable points to the Toronto Wolfpack’s season tally.

 

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