TORONTO — Brian McDermott liked what he saw in his first game in Toronto at the Wolfpack's helm.
The transatlantic rugby league team thumped the Swinton Lions 52-10 Sunday before a record Betfred Championship crowd of 9,562 on a crisp sunny afternoon at Lamport Stadium, surpassing the 9,181 for a 2015 game between Bradford and Leigh, according to the Wolfpack.
"In terms of the crowd and the venue, it's been great," said McDermott, whose first 11 games as Toronto coach were played in England and France. "I've heard a lot about it and they were fantastic, the crowd. (They) really understand the sport, really got behind it and fantastic number wasn't it — nine-and-a-half-thousand people. Really good."
Blake Wallace scored 24 points in the Wolfpack's first game in Toronto since Oct. 7 when they lost 4-2 to London Broncos in the Million Pound Game with promotion to the Super League on the line.
Sunday marked a sixth straight win for Toronto (11-1-0) since a 46-16 loss March 9 at Toulouse Olympique, the lone blemish on the Wolfpack schedule. Toronto sits atop the second-tier Championship standings, four points ahead of Toulouse.
Wallace had two tries and kicked seven conversions and a penalty. Gareth O'Brien, Bodene Thompson, Andy Ackers, Andrew Dixon, Rickey Leutele, Tom Olbison and Adam Higson also scored tries for Toronto, which led 24-6 at the half.
Matty Ashton and Mike Butt scored for Swinton (2-10-0). Harry Smith kicked a conversion.
Toronto has beaten Swinton all three times they have met, outscoring the Lions 156-36.
The Championship is split between fully professional clubs and semi-pro sides, meaning the high-powered Wolfpack face vastly different challenges week-in week-out.
"I mean this with the greatest respect to the teams that we play, but one week we play a team that's got a really serious chance of beating us and then the next week we play a team that in reality we'd have to be off for them to be able to beat us," said McDermott. "Our fellows have got a real challenge some weeks in getting up for the contest, in getting up for the battle. There are always scrappy moments in those type of games. But to be fair today I thought we were pretty clinical throughout the game."
"Respect to Swinton," he added. "They never went away and made it at least a contest physically in the second half for us."
Swinton was up for the challenge, with a completion rate of offensive sets at more than 90-per-cent in the first half. And Wallace was walloped late in the half by a Gavin Bennion tackle ruled to be a shoulder charge. The Swinton player was sin-binned for the infraction.
Wallace, an Australian, spent some time on the turf then got up and kicked the penalty.
"I was concerned for a while there because the defender didn't miss, did he? He certainly connected with him," said McDermott, a former England and Great Britain international. "I think we all heard it, which is the beauty of our sport certainly from a spectator point of view ... and the bloke just gets straight back up again and carries on."
Said Wallace: "That's footie isn't it. You get hits like that."
Swinton, which had lost their first seven games of the season, arrived in 11th place in the Championship.
The game marked the 150th of Australian forward Darcy Lussick's career (30 with Toronto, 65 for the Manly Sea Eagles, 53 for the Parramatta Eels and two for NSW City).
The Wolfpack were without winger Matty Russell, the Championship's leading try-scorer, due to a shoulder injury.
After Sunday, the Wolfpack have 15 games remaining with nine more at Lamport. Three earlier home games were staged at neutral sites — Newcastle, Hull and London — because of the Toronto winter and Lamport's unavailability.
Toronto started in the third tier in 2017, battering part-time opposition in League 1 to move up to the Championship. The Wolfpack won that as well last season but fell just short in the Super League promotion playoffs.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press