Both the Toronto Wolfpack and Toulouse Olympique XIII came into this fifth round Qualifiers fixtures on four points but two places apart on the league ladder due to points difference. It was a crucial game with the winner putting themselves in pole position for being the home side in the Million Pound game, the loser more likely to be playing their rugby in the Championship in 2019.
This was the third meeting between the two teams, Toronto winning the game at the Magic Weekend in May by 43-30 and narrowly winning the game in France in April by 24-22. Toulouse had a disappointing loss in London last time out, while Toronto lost to Salford. Both sides had a point to prove.
It had been a scrappy opening from both sides and looked like it would be a bit of a grind. The referee had to put a couple of indicents on report, including an alleged bite by Jack Bussey on Bastien Ader.
Mason Caton-Brown went close on five minutes but failed to ground the ball and it was Mark Kheirallah kicked the first points of the match with a penalty from twenty metres after eighteen minutes.
Caton-Brown answered two minutes later with a spectacular one-handed flying score in the corner. Despite it looking like the winger dropped the ball in the act of scoring, the referee pointed to the spot. Gareth O’Brien was unable to add the conversion from the touchline.
A professional foul from Stan Robin, stripping the ball after the tackle, saw him sin-binned on twenty-seven and within seconds Nick Rawsthorne went over in the left corner, sliding home to score against the twelve men. O’Brien pushed the conversion attempt wide, the Wolfpack lead just six points.
A thirty-second Kheirallah penalty reduced the margin to four points as he kicked from directly in front of the sticks.
On thirty-seven Paul Marcon completed a fantastic try when Paul Marcon took a Robin pass, kicked it down the line and won the race to ground in goal. Kheirallah was unable to add the extras and the sides went into the interval tied up at 8-8.
The second half was just four minutes old as Chase Stanley benefitted as Chris Centrone failed to catch a kick to the corner and the Toronto centre grounded the loose ball. O’Brien kicked the conversion wide of the uprights, the home side 12-8 ahead.
There were ten minutes left as Robin shrugged off a tackle and stooped to ground, the sin-binned player was now the Toulouse saviour but as William Barthau’s kick sailed wide of the uprights, the scores were level at 12-12.
A seventy-sixth minute O’Brien drop goal from twenty-five metres edged the Wolfpack into a one point lead. Toronto managed to stem the next Toulouse attack and hold on for the vital win and a crucial two points.
Toronto are now in the box seat for a home game in the Million Pound fixture and Toulouse will be hoping that London slip up in their remaining fixtures and allow them another shot at Toronto in a few short weeks time.
This was a thrilling game, packed with incident, and which would have benefitted from a video referee to clarify some of the try and no try decisions. All credit to both sides for giving their all.
Wolfpack: O’Brien (DG), Rawsthorne (T), Stanley (T), Wheeler, Caton-Brown (T), McCrone, Wallace, Emmitt, Beswick, Sims, Dixon, Paterson, Bussey. Subs: Ackers, Sidlow, Buchanan, Lussick.
Toulouse: Kheirallah (2G), Marcon (T), Marguerite, Ader, Centrone, Ford, Robin (T), Bretherton, Marion, Puech, Planas, Curran, Rapira. Subs: Barthau, Sangare, Hepi, Boyer.
Referee: Tom Grant.