Halifax Panthers maintained their play off push with a memorable 26-18 victory over Toulouse Olympique on Saturday evening at a sun soaked Shay Stadium. A real team effort from one to seventeen as the Panthers avenged their defeat in the South of France earlier on in the season.
Fears that the heatwave that hit West Yorkshire might play into the French team’s hands were realised after just 90 seconds, Robin Brochon stepping through some weak Fax defence to score underneath the posts with Jake Shorrocks converting for an early 0-6 to Toulouse. It looked like the hosts might wilt under the pressure of the heat. However, back came the Panthers as the ball was worked well to the right hand corner where James Saltonstall acrobatically finished to bring Fax right back into the game.
Louis Jouffret missed his first goal attempt for a while but as it turned out it would be his only blemish from the tee in yet another great performance from the boot of the French International.
A nip and tuck first half went the way of Toulouse once more as Pierre-Jean Lima crossed for Olympique on the right. Toulouse native Kevin Larroyer seemed to have held the second rower up but despite the animated protestations of Joe Keyes and others, the Touch Judge and referee Marcus Griffiths awarded the try which Shorrocks duly converted to stretch their lead out 4-12.
Back came Fax again though as a scrum in Toulouse territory was punished as the Panthers backline picked up the pace, James Woodburn-Hall dummying his way over wide on the left. Jouffret this time successful with the boot before adding a routine penalty just before the break to level the scores 12-12.
This gave the Panthers great momentum going into the second half and it was Fax that grabbed the all important first try after the break with Woodburn-Hall turning provider this time, breaking through the midfield to hand off to the supporting Ben Kavanagh who went under the posts to the delight of the South Stand faithful.
Jouffret’s conversion made it 18-12 before landing another penalty goal to put Fax two scores ahead at 20-12. The home side dominated without getting the knockout blow which allowed Toulouse to strike back with Zachary Santo scoring a real sucker punch try, Shorrocks converting to put Olympique back to within two points at 20-18.
The next score would again be even more vital and would win the game it was felt, and it went to who else but top scorer Lachlan Walmsley. Nice work from Jouffret, his lofted ball to Ben Crooks gave the Centre the perfect chance to draw the winger to release the Flying Scotsman to score his 34th try of the season in all competitions.
Jouffret landed a peach of a conversion from wide out to put Fax back to an unassailable 8 point margin of 26-18. Fax then showed their courage and togetherness in defence to keep a late Toulouse attacking onslaught from scoring to see the game out and achieve one of their best league victories of the season to date, keeping up with the play off chasers and putting pressure on those teams above them as only 4 points separate 4th from 9th place with only 2 more rounds of the regular season left. Very much all the play for in the Betfred Championship
Woodburn-Hall, Walmsley, Crooks, McComb, Saltonstall, Jouffret, Keyes, Calcott, Moore, Larroyer, Kavanagh, Gee, Fairbank
Subs: Inman, Tangata, Lannon, Sutcliffe
Tries: Saltonstall (10), Woodburn-Hall (27), Kavanagh (47), Walmsley (65)
Goals: Jouffret 3/4
Penalties: Jouffret 2/2
Santo, Marcon, Laguerre, Armitage, Laguerre, Brochon, Shorrocks, Hansen, Gahan, Belmas, Lima, Stefani, Marion
Subs: Pelissier, Silva, Skoundri, Peyroux
Tries: Brochon (2), Lima (15), Santo (62)
Goals: Shorrocks 3/3
Man of the Match: Joe Keyes
Match Sponsors: Tag Tool Hire
Match Ball Sponsors: Snowflake Media