As Super League got underway so did what looks to be an incredibly competitive Championship season. With Leigh having already secured the first points of the season against Dewsbury on Friday evening, York City Knights made the trip to France to take on Toulouse Olympique XIII as two of the highly fancied sides did battle for the early season spoils.
The game was staged in Toulouse’s new home, the Stade Ernest-Wallon, and had all the promise of a table topping early season four pointer as both sides looked to go one better than they did last season and make it to the top flight.
Both sides gave a first run out to a number of new signings as they set out their 2020 stalls. Despite it being early in the season there was plenty to play for.
After absorbing the early Toulouse pressure it was the Knight who put the first points on the board when a cross field passing move found Will Sharp on the right wing to score on the overlap. The kick was missed but after ten minutes York had a 4-0 lead.
On nineteen Toulouse hit the front as big prop forward Joe Bretherton took a crash ball and went through the line to ground easily. Mark Kheirallah added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
There were plenty of errors as the first half progressed with nether side able to take their opportunities as Toulouse took a 6-4 lead into the sheds.
Eight minutes after the restart, back-to-back knock-ons from Toulouse gifted the ball to York deep inside their own twenty. Marcus Stock, off the bench for the Knights, got the walk in try. Connor Robinson added the extra two points for a 10-6 lead.
On sixty-two Lloyd White saw red for a flailing boot into the face of Salter but four minutes later the twelve men levelled the score as Paul Marcon crossed in the corner off a Bretherton pass. Mark Kheirallah pulled his kick right of the postsm the scores tied at 10-10.
Olympique hit the front on seventy one when Paterika Vaivai powered over the line from first receiver with a five metre battering ram of a run. Kheirallah added the conversion and the home side had a 16-10 lead.
York had their chances to level the scores in the closing second but were unable to keep their composure and get across the line with the home side holding on for a 16-10 win to take a crucial first two points of the season.
Junior Vaivai chased a last second kick to pick up the bouncing ball and dive over for the try. Kheirallah added the extras again for a 22-10 final score.
It was an entertaining game, with end to end action, but far too many mistakes from both sides to satisfy the coaches. Toulouse overcame a one man deficit to snatch the two points as they seemed to finish the game with far more energy than the visitors. It will be a long season for both sides and they will hope to be in the mix come the play-offs.
Olympique XIII: Kheirallah (3G), Hitchcox, Vaivai J (T), Ader, Marcon (T), Robin, Ford, Vaiavai P (T), Barthau, Hansen, Bretherton (T), Boyer, Bell. Subs: White (SO on 62), Evans, Puech, Sangare.
Knights: Marsh, Bass, Hey, Salter, Sharp (T), Johnston, Robinson (G), Jubb, Clarkson, Washbrook, Scott, Spears. Subs: Teanby, Porter, Stock (T), Jordan-Roberts.
Referee: M Griffiths.