|Betfred Championship play-off final|
|Toronto Wolfpack (4) 24|
|Tries: McCrone, Wallace, Thompson, Mellor Goals: O’Brien 2, Wallace 2|
|Featherstone Rovers (6) 6|
|Try: Sutcliffe Goal: Chisholm|
Toronto Wolfpack won promotion to Super League after overcoming Featherstone Rovers in the Million Pound Game.
Just three years after forming, Wolfpack have ensured top flight rugby league will be played in North America for the first time in 2020.
But they had to come from behind after Featherstone led 6-4 at the break.
Toronto tries from Josh McCrone, Blake Wallace, Bodene Thompson and Joe Mellor set them up for a 24-6 victory after Alex Sutcliffe crossed for Rovers.
For almost an hour, it looked like Toronto would be upset for the second year running at the final hurdle as part-timers Featherstone held them at bay with some brave defence.
London Broncos edged them out 4-2 in last season’s Million Pound Game, but Wolfpack will replace Broncos in the top tier next season as their greater fitness and experience finally told.
A full house of 9,974 at Lamport Stadium roared them home as three second-half tries in the space of 13 minutes finally broke Featherstone’s resistance.
The Flat-cappers, who had come through three play-off rounds to reach the final, broke the deadlock on 28 minutes when Sutcliffe capitalised on indecision in Toronto’s in-goal area by Liam Kay.
But Toronto’s response was immediate as skipper Josh McCrone charged through for their first try. Gareth O’Brien missed the extras and Featherstone would hold onto that lead as the game approached the final quarter.
However, their dreams of reaching Super League for the first time were to be dashed when Wallace, Thompson and Mellor went over and put the game out of reach with 10 minutes to play.
Wolfpack’s journey to the top
Formed in 2016 with the aim of reaching Super League within five years, Toronto have achieved it in just three.
They breezed through League One in their first season and only missed out on back-to-back promotions last season when Broncos beat them at the final hurdle.
But this year Toronto, led by four-time Grand Final-winning former Leeds coach Brian McDermott, were runaway leaders of the Championship winning 26 out of 27 games.
They finished 12 points clear of second-placed Toulouse and 18 ahead of Featherstone in fifth.
Their victory against Rovers in the play-off final ensured they finished the season unbeaten at home.
It was also a fitting finale for veteran prop Ashton Sims, who brought the curtain down on a 17-year career spread across three continents while Jon Wilkin, a multiple Challenge Cup and Grand Final winner with St Helens, also played a pivotal role in their victory.
Toronto head coach Brian McDermott:
“We hope to have a higher profile now we’re on a higher stage. It’s just a fantastic story.
“Super League needs to be able to sell a final to some potential investors or a TV deal which says it’s going to be competed for by big city teams.
“Because in five years’ time if the Super League or the Challenge Cup finals are still competed for by small towns in the north of England – Featherstone are a magnificent story and so are Salford – but who are we going to sell that to is the interesting point.
“If we’re competing for a final in five years and we’re sat around a table with the TV deals and the mega sponsors and we’re saying one of our teams starts with Toronto and the other name of the team starts with London or Barcelona or New York, that’s how the game grows.
“I know there’s a few people opposed to us being in the comp, but we can’t please everybody.”
Toronto Wolfpack: O’Brien; Kay, Stanley, Leutele, Russell; Mellor, McCrone; Mullally, Ackers, Sims, Dixon, Thompson, Wilkin.
Interchange: Wallace, Lussick, Olbinson, Springer.
Featherstone Rovers: Golding; Render, Hardcastle, Sutcliffe, Johnson; Chisholm, McLelland; Davies, Jones, Ormondroyd, Bussey, Harrison, Lockwood.
Interchange: Albert, Cooper, Makatoa, King.
Referee: Chris Kendall (RFL).