Toronto Wolfpack travelled to Headlingley to face the Leeds Rhinos as they looked to secure promotion to Super League at the first time of asking.
It was the Wolfpack who started off the brighter as well, with Nathaniel Peteru knocking on the ball in the first tackle of the game just five metres from his own line.
However, Leeds survived the early scare with Mason Caton-Brown knocking the ball on on the last tackle.
Leeds conceded the first penalty of the day to as they were caught offside, however Josh McCrone failed to find touch thanks to superb acrobatics from Ashton Golding and then conceded a penalty of their own in frustration.
Toronto were the first team to get over the try line in the eighth minute as Gareth O’Briens kick through the line was fumbled by Luke Briscoe and Nick Rawsthorne and was then close to being touched down by Caton-Brown but was in touch as well.
Leeds were given the opportunity to attack the Wolfpack line after a Matty Russell knock-on but they failed to deliver as Dom Crosby was tackled on the last tackle.
Toronto made Leeds pay for their lack of cutting edge and on 13 minutes they took the lead. Gareth O’Brien broke on the outside of Jimmy Keinhorst and then released Corey Paterson on the inside who managed to out muscle Tom Briscoe in the tackle to score the first try of the night. O’Brien added the extras to make it an early 6-0 lead for the Wolfpack.
Leeds weren’t going to make it easy for Toronto though as they won a penalty for a high tackle and set up just 15 metres from the try-line.
The Rhinos did take full advantage of the field position too and crossed the line themselves through Tom Briscoe. The Winger collected a loose grubber kick from Liam Sutcliffe and slid down into the right hand edge in what was a sloppy fifth tackle play from Leeds. Sutcliffe failed with the conversion to cut the gap to two points.
Toronto did extend their lead just minutes later though with an O’Brien penalty from in front of the posts after Nathaniel Peteru lifted a Toronto player above the horizontal in the tackle.
Leeds levelled the scores in just the next set after Ashton Sims conceded a penalty, allowing the Rhinos to charge up the field. Richie Myler kicked high towards the posts and Liam Sutcliffe jumped above Paterson to gather the ball one-handed and dotted down behind the sticks. He then converted his own try as the home-side took the lead with not quite half an hour played.
Blake Wallace picked up a knock with just five minutes of the first-half remaining and looked like he was struggling to continue and McCrone took control on both sides of the park.
His kick nearly came off for the Wolfpack too as Matty Russell offloaded to Paterson and the second-rows kick through was kicked off the field by Sutcliffe and the Wolfpack set up just 10 metres from the Rhinos line.
The Rhinos defence held out though as they survived the Toronto attack.
The Wolfpack did manage to get in front just as the half-time hooter blew.
After Gary Wheeler stole the ball from Keinhorst 1-on-1 the Wolfpack charged up field and with just a few seconds of the half remaining, they offloaded three times out of the tackle and the ball was spread right to Rawsthorne who dived over in the corner. O’Brien pulled his conversion wide and the half-time whistle was blown.
Half-Time: Leeds Rhinos 10-12 Toronto Wolfpack
Blake Wallace did come back out for the second half but his right foot was heavily strapped.
Leeds were unorganised in attack in the opening stages of the second period but a loose Caton-Brown hand in the tackle gave the Rhinos possession back inside the Toronto half.
Leeds couldn’t make it count though and after conceding a penalty, Brad Dwyer spoke out of turn and the Wolfpack set up their attacking set in side the Rhinos half.
Ashton Golding was then trapped in-goal after a second tackle kick caught the Leeds full-back off-guard.
In the following set, Adam Sidlow was held-up and then on the last tackle Blake Wallace managed to dive on a loose ball behind the Leeds line. However, Richie Myler managed to touch the ball down first and a goal line drop out was the result of the play.
Olsi Krasniqi was penalised with just the first tackle after he ran into the tackle with his elbow and Jamie Jones-Buchanan came off worse for wear.
The penalty count for the game kept rising, and this time it was Toronto who paid the price as Jimmy Keinhorst made up for his earlier errors and as he was the recipient of Brad Dwyer’s pop pass and powered over the line and placed the ball over his head. Liam Sutcliffe was successful with his conversion as Leeds took a four-point lead with 25 minutes remaining.
With 20 minutes remaining, Matt Parcell was brought back onto the field and he and Brad Dwyer were tasked with speeding up the ruck for the Rhinos.
They didn’t have the chance to do this though as Luke Briscoe was penalised for tackling Gareth O’Brien in the air and Toronto set up five metres from the Rhinos line. They then managed to win themselves another set after Briscoe tapped the ball out the back of the in-goal area for a goal line drop out.
This set gave Toronto the chance to level the scores and Matty Russell obliged as Bob Beswick kicked in behind Tom Briscoe and the Wolfpack winger latched onto the bouncing ball to slid into the corner. O’Brien missed from the tee and the scores were level with 15 minutes to go.
Dom Crosby hammered Darcy Lussick with a huge tackle but the TMO and Ben Thaler deemed that the prob forward caught the Toronto forwad in a crusher tackle and he was sent to the sin-bin, which proved to be crucial for the Rhinos.
Lussick was then penalised for a slap but was not sin-binned by Thaler despite the linesman and Thaler himself seeing the incident. Another penalty meant that Leeds were once again near the Wolfpack line. Josh McCrone managed to stop the Rhinos as he picked up the loose ball.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Toronto were the first to go for the one-pointer but McCrone missed by inches.
With the play being so open the ball was bouncing all over the park. Luke Briscoe went to dive on the ball but Caton-Brown collided with Briscoe’s head and the winger seemed to be in extreme discomfort after the incident.
Once play reconvened Myler decided to go for a drop-goal of his own but the half-back put his attempt wide too.
Toronto seemed to be out of field-goal range but Gareth O’Brien took us back to the 2016 Million Pound Game and slotted a drop-goal from 45 metres out to give Toronto a slim one-point lead with five minutes remaining.
Leeds looked desperate though and a poor Joel Moon kick was picked up by Rawsthorne and the centre broke down the right hand wing and Toronto set up deep in the Rhinos half.
That was enough for the Wolfpack though as Leeds couldn’t do enough and Toronto moved onto 10 points, but couldn’t quite secure automatic promotion.
Full-Time: Leeds Rhinos 16-17 Toronto Wolfpack
Sky Man on the Match: Gareth O’Brien – He filled in for Blake Wallace in the half-back role in attack and led the Wolfpack around the field. He was the difference between the sides though as his drop-goal won the game for Toronto.
My Man of the Match: Blake Wallace – The Toronto half-back didn’t manage to make a huge impact on the game but he managed to play nearly 50 minutes of the game with a injured leg and he hopes that this would have been enough as he may miss the Million Pound Game through the knock.
Golding, T. Briscoe, Keinhorst, Moon, L. Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Myler, Peteru, Parcell, Crosby, Jones-Buchanan, Ferres, Thompson.
Subs: Dywer, Smith, Mullally, Cuthbertson.
Tries: T.Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Keinhorst
Goals: Sutcliffe (2/3)
O’Brien, Caton-Brown, Rawsthorne, Wheeler, Russell, McCrone, Wallace, Lussick, Beswick, Sims, Dixon, Paterson, Emmitt.
Subs: Sidlow, Krasniqi,, Ackers, Buchanan.
Tries: Paterson, Rawsthorne, Russell
Goals: O’Brien (2/4)