A LATE fightback from 12-man Toulouse Olympique secured them a 22-10 victory on the opening weekend of the Betfred Championship over York City Knights at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.

York made a strong start thanks to Will Sharp’s early score and were more than a match for their full-time opponents in the first half, which finished in favour of the hosts thanks to a converted Joe Bretherton try.

The Knights were back ahead when Marcus Stock sprung over and matters looked even more promising when Toulouse hooker Lloyd White was sent off.

But Toulouse showed all the quality that show them finish second last year and came up with three tries in the final 15 minutes to take the two points.

York will of course be disappointed not to have kicked on with the extra man at 10-10 midway through the second half, but can leave France with their heads held high after a sterling effort.

The Knights will also take confidence from the way in their new additions fared. 

Head coach James Ford handed four debuts out to his new recruits, with Sharp, Ben Johnston, Danny Washbrook and Chris Clarkson all earning spots in the starting 13.

There was no place for Hull KR loanee Jimmy Keinhorst, who missed the three pre-season matches through injury, as did Perry Whiteley, who also missed out.

Ford also opted to select just one hooker in his 17, with Will Jubb preferred to Kriss Brining in that role.

Toulouse’s spine has been lauded since their arrival into the Championship and it looked to have created an early try for them when William Barthau offloaded to Johnathon Ford to dive over the line.

Fortunately for the Knights, the referee ruled it out due to obstruction.

And it didn’t take long before York were able to make them pay.

Ambitiously, Johnathon Ford tried to flick pass a high kick and Johnston pounced on it.

The Knights then won a penalty in front of the sticks and chose to run it rather than go for the goal - a decision that paid dividends.

York sprang the ball to the left side with quick hands from Johnston then Liam Salter giving Sharp to stroll in for a first York try in the right corner of the wide field.

Connor Robinson’s tough touchline conversion attempt fell short.

Toulouse weren’t panicked and began to build pressure through a couple of penalties and some astute kicking, the latter of which laid on their levelling try.

A high kick was knocked on by York deep in their own half and then the French side launched a rapid move to the right side, with Joe Bretherton steaming through a gap from Stanislas Robin’s pass.

Mark Kheirallah added the extras to hand the hosts the lead.

Any thoughts that the floodgates would open up for Toulouse by that point would quickly dismissed when York had a half-chance through Brad Hey’s dive at the corner.

However both his grounding of the ball and the preceding forward pass from Jason Bass prevented York regaining their lead.

Toulouse did retain a sense of control throughout the remainder of the half, but York’s defence - which was hailed for much of last season - stood up tall to keep the deficit at just two points.

Salter produced a try-saving intercept from a Barthau pass to Ford as the Knights dug deep to go into half-time at 6-4.

After the restart, the match passed by without much of an incident in the first eight minutes, with more errors than moments of quality on display.

That was until Matty Marsh hoisted a kick to the right. Sharp was underneath it close to the line and tried to offload the ball but Toulouse got a hand in.

The ball went to loosely to ground and Marcus Stock was the quickest to react, picking up and grounding over the whitewash.

Robinson added the conversion and York led 10-6.

Back came Toulouse though and they looked certain to threaten after earning a couple of quick-fire penalties.

From 15 metres out, they swept the ball from left to right but they failed to find the final pass as Clement Boyer threw the ball out over the sideline behind Paul Marcon on his outside.

On the hour mark, things went from bad to worse for Toulouse as Lloyd White was sent off after a moment of madness.

Standing at marker, White flicked a boot out at Salter on the floor and was deservedly shown a straight red card.

In spite of their numerical disadvantage, the French side pushed on for the levelling score and eventually they found it.

Bastien Ader was held up but a play later, Bretherton drove forward and fed Marcon to touch down by the flag.

Kheirallah’s conversion attempt from out wide drifted short. 

10-10 it remained with a dozen minutes left.

The sending off seemed to give Toulouse some renewed hope and with nine minutes left they reaffirmed the lead.

A high kick was tough for Marsh to take and he attempted a kick touch, which went forward and found Barthau deep in Knights territory.

Toulouse took full advantage when the towering Patrick Vaivai somehow found a gap in between the three surrounding York defenders.

From close to the sticks, Kheirallah slotted the goal over.

Toulouse were celebrating again when Marcon sprang over in the corner, but the referee ruled him as being held up.

York managed to conjure one final chance in the dying stages when Jubb threw a flat pass to Joe Porter metres from the line, though the prop lost the ball as he took the pass.

And with seconds left, Toulouse added to their lead, taking the scoreline to a slightly flattering one.

Straight from a scrum, Jy Hitchcox kicked the ball through and Junior Vaivai gleefully jumped on the loose ball.

The margin went to 12 points from Kheirallah’s conversion.


Toulouse: Kheirallah, Hitchcox, J Vaivai, Ader, Macron, Robin, Ford, P Vaivai, Barthau, Hansen, Bretherton, Boyer, Bell

Subs (all used): White, Evans, Sangare, Puech.

Tries: Bretherton (20), Marcon (66), P Vaivai (71), J Vaivai (80)

Goals: Kheirallah (3/4)

Sin bin: None

Sent off: White (60)

York: Marsh, Bass, Hey, Salter, Sharp, Johnston, Robinson, Baldwinson, Jubb, Clarkson, Washbrook, Scott, Spears.

Subs (all used): Teanby, Porter, Stock, Jordan-Roberts.

Tries: Sharp (9), Stock (49)

Goals: Robinson (1/2)

Sin bin: None

Sent off: None


York Man of the Match: Will Sharp. Scored his first York try on debut and looked good in defence too.

Referee: Marcus Griffiths.

Penalty count: 7-6