FOR the second week in a row, Barrow Raiders found themselves up against one of the Betfred Championship's top teams – and for the second week in a row they proved more than a match for them before narrowly falling short.

Yesterday's 16-12 defeat to Toronto Wolfpack in the Challenge Cup fifth round may have ended the Raiders' participation in rugby league's most prestigious knock-out competition for another year, but once again they came away with their heads held high after giving the full-timers an almighty scare.

Indeed, the fact the Craven Park faithful stood as one to applaud the players when the hooter sounded to bring to a close the 80 minutes shows how much the team's efforts were appreciated and recognised by those who part with their hard-earned money to watch them.

Few would argue Barrow's 12-10 lead at half time was not deserved either and although a converted try from Nick Rawsthorne eight minutes into the second half ultimately proved the game-breaker, the hosts were not without opportunities after that.

Unfortunately, while the talking points post-match should have focussed on the positives from Barrow's performance, they were instead about some of the decisions made by the man in the middle, referee Greg Dolan.

Particularly, both Raiders head coach Paul Crarey and the home supporters were enraged an off-the-ball hit on Declan Hulme inside the Toronto 20-metre area by Gareth O'Brien while the centre was chasing a kick was only deemed a penalty rather than a yellow card as well.

It is a pity such discussion ended up overshadowing the game as the general feeling about Barrow's display was upbeat. There were signs too they had heeded Crarey's advice about trying to play more, with half-backs Jamie Dallimore and Ryan Johnston in particular looking to spread the ball where possible.

Shane Toal was lively on his return after missing the league defeat to Featherstone Rovers the week before and Jono Smith put in another display which showed exactly why Crarey had been so keen to bring him to Craven Park before eventually clinching his signature last winter.

Unfortunately though, there were some casualties; Danny Morrow pulled up with a hamstring injury midway through the first half on his return after two games out, and Alec Susino and Ryan Fieldhouse were both forced off with head injuries – the former being taken to hospital as a precaution.

Crarey now faces an anxious wait to see if they will be fit for the trip to Leigh Centurions next Sunday in the Championship, although even if they are not he should at least be able to take heart from how his side did even with such players off the field.

It was all Toronto early on though and the Canadian outfit – no doubt with memories of the 8-8 draw in the league here back in February still in their minds – made inroads early on, only for Rawsthorne to be denied a try by Toal and Jarrad Stack's excellent tackling.

The defence was breached on four minutes though when an attack from a scrum led to Ryan Brierley sending full-back O'Brien through for a try which went unconverted, with Hulme being called into action to keep out the diving Adam Higson on the right wing soon after.

Yet Barrow seized the initiative after this and managed to get at least four repeat sets, only to be kept out and then the Wolfpack win the ball back from a drop-out. However, a handling error by the visitors soon gifted possession back and this time the Raiders made no mistake.

Having worked their way back into the visitors 20, a penalty set in motion an attack which saw Nathan Mossop dart through to score under the posts and Dallimore kick the conversion to give his side the lead on 18 minutes.

Toronto showed just how quickly they can turn defence into attack with the set which saw them retake the lead six minutes later though, going from a 20-metre restart to Bob Beswick charging through a gap for a try which this time Brierley converted.

The lead was short-lived though and another knock-on – which along with forward passes and questionable decision making on the last tackle punctuated Toronto's play all afternoon – saw Barrow gain good field position, and a shimmy from scrum-half Johnston followed by an offload set up Martin Aspinwall for a converted try.

Rawsthorne had a try ruled out for a forward pass a minute before half time, but it was his breakaway try on 48 minutes which showed Toronto at their destructive best after being pinned in their own 20 metres for four tackles by Barrow' superb defence, only to find a gap and send the centre racing clear.

After that, it was a real see-saw affair and both Dallimore and Andy Ackers had tries ruled out for infrigements in the build-up. It was Toronto who went through to round six though, with the Raiders out but certainly not down.

Barrow Raiders: Ryan Fieldhouse 7; Shane Toal 7, Declan Hulme 7, Jarrad Stack 7, Gene Ormsby 7; Jamie Dallimore 7, Ryan Johnston 7; Joe Bullock 7, Nathan Mossop 7, Alec Susino 7, Danny Morrow 7, Jono Smith 8, Martin Aspinwall 7. Interchange: Dean Parata 7, Bradd Crellin 7, Tom Walker 7, Ryan Duffy 7.

Toronto Wolfpack: Gareth O’Brien; Adam Higson, Chase Stanley, Nick Rawsthorne, Liam Kay; Ryan Brierley, Josh McCrone; Jacob Emmit, Bob Beswick, Ashton Sims, Jack Bussey, Richard Whiting, Sam Hopkins. Interchange: Darcy Lussick, Adam Sidlow, Jack Buchanan, Andy Ackers.

Referee: Greg Dolan.

Attendance: 1,140.

Playback: 5 – O’Brien try (0-4); 18 – Mossop try, Dallimore conv (6-4); 24 – Beswick try, Brierley conv (6-10); 27 – Aspinwall try, Dallimore conv (12-10); 48 – Rawsthorne try, Breirley conv (12-16).

Raiders star man: Jono Smith: Tackled hard, ran harder and made some huge gains with the ball in hand, showing exactly why Paul Crarey has been a long-term admirer of his.