Eighty minutes stood between two sides and a trip to Toronto to face the Wolfpack next Sunday in the Million Pound Game for the right to play in Super League in 2020.
Toulouse Olympique XIII had the home advantage as they looked to secure the trip but they were up against a Featherstone Rovers side who were high on confidence after defeating both Leigh Centurions and the York City Knights in the play-off series so far.
Toulouse emerged victorious from both league matched in 2019 but the largest winning margin was just six points. The outcome when the two sides met on the 7th September was a narrow two point win to the French side. It promised to be a close game.
Featherstone got out of the blocks the fastest and on four minutes John Davies pounced on a Dane Chisolm grubber to ground behind the sticks and stun the home supporters. Chisolm added the conversion from in front of the uprights for a 6-0 lead.
Three minutes later William Barthau grabbed the equaliser as he completed an aggressive move downfield taking a James Bell pass to scamper over. Mark Kheirallah slotted the extras between the uprights.
On fifteen Davies and Chisolm combined for a carbon copy of the opening try, proving that lightening can strike twice. The stand-off again added the conversion for 12-6, arguably a little against the run of play.
It was an end to end thriller.
A Kheirallah mistake in his own twenty, spilling the ball in the carry, allowed Ashton Golding to break the Toulouse line and get the ball on the ground by the right corner flag. Chisolm kicked the conversion brilliantly from the touchline for 18-6 on the half hour. The vociferous fans following from Featherstone were ecstatic.
Rovers carried their twelve point lead to the interval and were good value for it.
Another Toulouse mistake spilling the ball on their twenty, allowed Featherstone to pass the ball from the right to the left with James Harrison breaking the line and getting the ball on the ground. Chisolm hit the post but at 22-6 it was a dream start to the second half for the visitors.
On forty-eight Paul Marcon scored a superb flying try in the right corner, grounding one-handed under the Chisolm tackle. Kheirallah added a sideline conversion for 12-22, Toulouse setting the Featherstone nerves jangling.
As Toulouse pushed to further narrow the margin, a Barthau grubber on the Featherstone line went into the arms of Chisolm who won a one hundred metre sprint down the pitch to score and put one foot on the plane to Toronto. Chisolm was again unable to add the extras but Olympique needed three tries to take the lead.
A second length of the field try from Featherstone, this one through Jack Johnson, further buried Toulouse’s hopes. He collected the bouncing ball twenty out from his own line and outpaced the defence for a run to the line. Chisolm added the conversion for a twenty point leading margin with seventeen minutes left.
On sixty-seven Jack Render found space wide right to grab Featherstone’s seventh try of the night as he took a pass in space and walked in. Chisolm wasn’t able to add the conversion, local heads were down, but the Featherstone party was in full swing.
Featherstone will be on the plane to take on the Toronto Wolfpack for a place in Super League in the Million Pound Game next Saturday evening. Toronto will have watched tonight’s performance with open mouths and will not be relishing facing the side who have made away wins their speciality over recent weeks. Leigh Centurions, York City Knights, and now Toulouse Olympique XIII have become the victims of an opportunist attack, and a rock solid defence.
It should be a belter.
Olympique: Kheirallah (2G), Vaivai J, Jassaume, Ader, Marcon (T), Barthau (T), Ford, Vaivai, Marion, Puech, Mika, Curran, Bell. Subs: Parata, Dezaria, Santi, Bretherton.
Rovers: Golding (T), Render (T), Sutcliffe, Carey, Johnson (T), McClelland, Chisolm (T, 4G), Makatoa, Jones, Davies (2T), Hardcastle, Harrison (T), Lockwood. Subs: Bussey, Cooper, Ormondroyd, Albert.
Referee: Rob Hicks.