FEATHERSTONE Rovers were pipped 32-26 in their Kingstone Press Championship game against Toulouse Olypique at Stade Ernest-Argeles in new coach John Duffy’s first match in charge.
The scores were level at 26-26 when Toulouse got the edge in a nail-biting finish with Kuni Minga’s second try in the final minute. It was cruel on Featherstone who recovered from 20-12 down to lead 24-20.
Toulouse went ahead against the run of play when they broke down the left wing and Minga beat Ian Hardman to score a ninth-minute try. Featherstone replied four minutes later when superb attacking play led to Anthony Thackeray crossing.
The home side then took control with two tries in five minutes. Rhys Curran went over in the 17th minute and Mark Kheirallah added his second goal before Bastien Ader powered over in the corner to make it 16-6.
Rovers cut the gap when Kyle Briggs marked his return by racing over from 45 yards out after clever play by Thackeray. Kheirallah then dived over at the corner to put the French side 20-12 up but Featherstone struck back again shortly before half-time when Scott Turner scored from a scrum move and Hardman kicked his third goal to cut the gap to 20-18.
They grabbed the lead six minutes into the second-half when a superb pass by Briggs sent in Jason Walton and Hardman converted.
The home side hit back 15 minutes from time when Stanislas Robin put in Kheirallah for his second touchdown which the full-back also goaled to edge the French team two points ahead. Rovers levelled the scores five minutes later when Hardman was on target with a penalty.
Featherstone’s Briggs and Thackeray then both then missed with a drop goal attempts before Toulouse snatched victory when Minga bagged his second touchdown and Kheirallah added the extras.
“I thought we deserved more out of the game but you have got to take your opportunities when they come,” said Duffy after the game. “The amount of effort the players put into that game we deserved more out of it but when you have opportunities in big games you have got to take them and we didn’t. Toulouse did right at the death and we paid that price.
“I thought our players were magnificent from 1 to 17. Obviously there is loads to work on and you get that every week but I thought their attitude was spot on.
“In the second-half I think we had 10 sets back-to-back on our own line and they didn’t get over and that kind of mentality and attitude towards your defence makes winners. Their worth ethic and their will to cover each other’s backs on the goalline was superb and then we went up the pitch and got some points which is pleasing. It was just that last five to 10 minutes when we had opportunities and they weren’t taken.”
Toulouse: Kheirallah; Marcon, Planas, Ader, Minga; Robin, Marion; Boyer, Bentley, Canet, Mika, Curran, Bentley. Subs: Bouzinac, Puech, Hepi, Sangare. Featherstone Rovers: Hardman; Turner, Taulapapa, Hardcastle, Briscoe; Thackeray, Wildie; Brooks, Carlile, Griffin, Mariano, Walton, Lockwood. Subs: Briggs, Moore, Bostck, Igbinedion.
Referee: Liam Moore.
Meanwhile, second-rower Connor Farrell was due to train with Featherstone Rovers for the first time tomorrow after joining them from Betfred Super League champions Wigan Warriors.
Farrell, 23, has signed a deal until the end of this season. He made his Wigan debut in 2014 and played nine times before making 12 appearance for Widnes Vikings last year on a season-long loan.
He has been playing in the Kingstone Pess Championship this season with Wigan’s dual-registration partners Swinton Lions. Coach John Duffy, who left Swinton last week to take charge of Rovers, said: “Connor is a hard-working and very talented professional who has a big future in the game.
“We are pleased to have him on board for the rest of the season and look forward to integrating him into the team. I have worked with him in the past and he has plenty of top-flight experience which will benefit us in the Qualifiers.”