Late tries sink Knights in Toulouse: Saturday 1st February - Betfred Championship
Three late tries helped seal victory for 12 man Toulouse Olympique over a spirited York City Knights in an entertaining game to start the 2020 Betfred Championship season.
Despite arriving to the ground just half an hour before kick off thanks to a logistical error the Knights led 6-10 heading into the final quarter, but despite having Lloyd White sent off the full time outfit finished strongly at their new home in the impressive Stade Ernest Wallon.
Head Coach James Ford handed competitive debuts to Will Sharp, Ben Johnston, Chris Clarkson and Danny Washbrook, while for Toulouse Jy Hitchcox, Harrison Hansen and Lloyd White made their bow.
The game started at a quick pace with the home side gaining plenty of yards, but it was the Knights who struck first; their first foray into the red zone saw Ben Johnston create an overlap and a simple finish for winger Sharp on the right edge. Robinson missed the difficult touchline conversion.
Olympique struck back midway through the first half after a fast play-the-ball stretched the Knights defence and former Wigan forward Joe Bretherton crashed over. Kheirallah added the extras for a 6-4 lead.
Despite it being the first week of the season, both sides played at an impressive pace and continued to go toe to toe for the remainder of the half, with defences holding firm and no further scores before the break.
York took the lead for a second time early in the second half when a high attacking kick from 2019 Player of the Year Matty Marsh caused all sorts of problems in the Toulouse defence, and Sharp reacted quickest to send Marcus Stock crashing over. Robinson added the extras and the Knights led 6-10 after 48 minutes.
Toulouse were shown a ‘carton rouge’ on the hour mark when substitute Lloyd White was sent off for appearing to kick Liam Salter in the head while he was on the floor.
Olympique refused to let their heads drop however and continued to play at a quick pace as the part-time Knights started to tire. They pulled the scores level in the 67th minute when Bretherton’s pass created just enough space for Marcon to finish by the right edge corner post. Kheirallah missed the difficult conversion, but the home side were in the ascendency heading into the final ten minutes.
The Knights were dealt another blow at this point as Connor Robinson left the field with a potentially worrying knee injury. The half back’s leg appeared to give way under a heavy tackle from Alex Bell, and will need to be assessed back in England next week.
Toulouse took the lead in the 73rd minute thanks to a powerful finish from Patty Vaivai, who somehow grounded the ball by the posts despite the attention of four – albeit tiring – Knights defenders for a 16-10 lead with just minutes remaining.
York desperately searched for an equalising score to take the game into golden point extra time and came agonisingly close through Joe Porter, but the final pass was judged forward and Toulouse cleared their lines.
Olympique finally put the game to bed deep into stoppage time when former Knights loanee Junior Vaivai raced onto the end of Jy Hitchcox’s probing kick to extend the score to 22-10 – somewhat harsh on the Knights who performed well against their full time opponents.
York now turn their attentions to a huge opening home game of the 2020 Betfred Championship when former Super League and World Club Champions Bradford Bulls visit Bootham Crescent this Sunday, 9th February (3pm). The Knights pulled off a memorable league double over the Bulls last season, and look to continue that form here and get on the board early. You can buy your ticket online now HERE.
Toulouse: Kheirallah, Marcon, J Vaivai, Ader, Hitchcox, Robin, Ford, P Vaivai, Barthau, Hansen, Bretherton, Boyer, Bell. Subs (all used): White, Evans, Puech, Sangaré.
Tries: Bretherton (18), Marcon (67), P Vaivai (73), J Vaivai (80).
Goals: Kheirallah (3/4).
Sent Off: White 60 (Kicking)
Knights: Marsh, Bass, Hey, Salter, Sharp, Johnston, Robinson, Baldwinson, Jubb, Clarkson, Washbrook, Scott, Spears. Subs: Teanby, Porter, Stock, Jordan-Roberts.
Try: Sharp (10), Stock (48).
Goal: Robinson (1/2).
Isaac Poad Man of the match: Will Sharp