CASTLEFORD, England — Star signing Sonny Bill Williams was a spectator Sunday as the Toronto Wolfpack scored 10 second-half points to defeat Castleford Tigers 16-10 in their one official pre-season game in advance of Super League play.
Toronto coach Brian McDermott had said prior to the contest that he did not want to rush the former All Black who is returning to rugby league from rugby union. That was confirmed when Williams did not make the game-day roster.
While the 34-year-old Williams has switched between rugby's codes several times during his career, he has not played league since 2014 (with the Sydney Roosters in Australia's NRL). McDermott also said Williams was nursing a few minor knocks from training.
Two other newcomers did make the Toronto matchday squad. Brad Singleton started at loose forward while James Cunningham was on the interchange bench.
Gareth O'Brien, Joe Mellor and Blake Wallace scored tries for Toronto. O'Brien and Wallace each added a conversion.
"To be where we're at now, in Super League and to get that first win in the pre-season at Cas (Castleford), we're ecstatic at the minute," said Wolfpack forward Adam Sidlow. "Long may it continue."
Danny Richardson and Sosaia Feki scored tries for Castleford, which finished fifth last season in the Super League. Richardson booted a conversion.
The Wolfpack opened the scoring in the fourth minute when Josh McCrone, delaying a pass for a runner to reach him, fed O'Brien near the goal-line for a converted try.
Castleford tied the score in the 13th minute when Richardson finished off a smart passing play.
The home side pulled ahead 10-6 in the 50th minute after Tyla Hepi offloaded to Richardson, who beat a tackler and then sent Feki in for the Tongan international's first try for Castleford.
Toronto answered three minutes later with a converted Mellor try for a 12-10 lead. Wallace beat a defender to free up Mellor for the score.
A Castleford try in the 57th minute was disallowed for double movement. Toronto crossed the line in the 67th minute but failed to get the ball down.
Wallace increased the Wolfpack lead to 16-10 in the 71st minute, finishing off an attack down the left side that saw Toronto outnumber the Castleford defenders. Tom Olbison started the break, offloading the ball to Hakim Miloudi, who drew in the Castleford fullback and then sent in Wallace alone.
Miloudi was sin-binned in the 78th minute for a high tackle on Lewis Peachey.
Sunday's game drew an announced crowd of 3,346 at Castleford's home stadium, colourfully known as the Mend-A-Hose Jungle (after sponsor Mend-A-Hose Hydraulics).
It was a testimonial for Castleford Tigers captain Michael Shenton, who has played more than 300 games and scored more than 100 tries in his 15-year career.
The former England international, who spent two years at St. Helens, captained the Tigers to the 2017 League Leaders' Shield as well as in the 2014 Challenge Cup Final and the 2017 Grand Final.
The transatlantic Wolfpack kick off their fourth season — and first in the top-tier Betfred Super League — for real on Feb. 2 against Castleford in a Super League doubleheader at Emerald Headingley Stadium in Leeds.
The Wolfpack's home opener at Lamport Stadium is April 19 against Hull FC.
The Canadian Press