A CUP shock was on the cards at Belle Vue before winger Tom Johnstone popped up to spare Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ blushes.
Wildcats were clinging to a six-point lead against French visitors Toulouse Olympique XIII when Johnstone pounced on an error by Tony Maurel to go over for his hat-trick try.
That was seven minutes from time and on the final play of the sixth-round tie Craig Hall stole the ball from Gavin Marguerite and sent Johnstone in for his fourth.
Two conversions from Liam Finn – taking his tally to six – completed a 40-22 win, but that flattered Wildcats.
They played at a different level to the Kingstone Press League One visitors in the opening 16 minutes, when they ran in four tries.
But Toulouse were the better team after that – for all but those final seven minutes – and they outscored Wakefield, who didn’t add their fifth try until the 58th minute, 22-18 in the final hour. It was probably too easy for the Super League outfit early on.
Wakefield were in front before Toulouse had been in possession, a knock-on and penalty setting the field position for Johnstone to swoop over from Jacob Miller’s pass.
Miller jinked over from close range five minutes later and when Wakefield scored back-to-back tries soon afterwards it looked like they were on course for a cricket score.
Hall raced over from inside his own 20 after intercepting Danny Hulme’s pass and in the next set Johnstone scored his second following a one-two between Matty Ashurst and Hall. Three Finn conversions made it 22-0, but Wildcats got sloppy after that and Toulouse began to adjust to the pace of the game, scoring two tries in the second quarter.
The first was an excellent effort, Marguerite finishing strongly after outstanding handling by Samy Masselot, Mark Kheirallah, Hulme and Sebastien Planas.
Masselot had a spell at Wildcats five years ago and the connection continued in the shape of Toulouse coach Sylvain Houles, who is also an ex-Wakefield player.
The try was unconverted, but Kheirallah added the extras after Mourad Kriouache went in from acting-half to make it 22-10 at the break.
Jonathon Ford dropped Kheirallah’s kick on the home line at the start of the second period and Kuni Minga got over the line, but bounced the ball. Wakefield scored their fifth try in the next set, Matty Ashurst scrambling in. That should have been game over, but 12 unanswered points by the French team set up a tense finish.
Hulme scored a fine try, changing direction to confuse the defence and then Minga crossed. Kheirallah converted both and a shock was a real possibility, but Wakefield finally woke up and their strong finish, aided by tired errors from the visitors, saw them through into the quarter-final draw and a trip to Huddersfield Giants.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Jowitt, Jones-Bishop, Walton, Hall, Johnstone, Miller, Finn, England, Howarth, Arona, Kirmond, Ashurst, Sio. Substitutes (all used) Simon, Crowther, Yates, Anderson.
Toulouse Olympique XIII: Kheirallah, Maurel, Marguerite, White, Minga, Ford, Hulme, Boyer, K Bentley, Canet, Planas, Curran, Marion. Substitutes (all used) Krioache, Puech, Masselot, Hepi.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).