London Broncos ended their run of two straight defeats with a dominating victory over Toulouse Olympique, running in five tries, for a final score of 30-16.
An entertaining and well played game was scoreless for almost half an hour, but it was not for the want of effort.
Both teams failed to convert chances in the opening 10 minutes. London was first to try to get over, but ended up a couple of metres short.
Then it was Toulouse’s turn, but the London defence held firm. For the next 15 minutes the game was an arm-wrestle, both teams probing and pressing for an opening, but defences dominated.
After 23 minutes, Bastian Canet should have given Olympique the lead, but he lost over the line the ball as he stretched to ground it.
Four minutes later London had the lead. It seemed as if the play was going nowhere, but Will Barthau lulled the Olympique defence into a false sense of security.
His stuttering run dragged tacklers out of the line, so his short pass to Jay Pitts left him one-on-one. Pitts handed off his marker as he cut inside and dived into the in-goal area.
And the lead was double from London’s next possession. After making good yards running the ball downfield it came to the last tackle and Barthau grubbered into space.
Mark Kheirallah came across to cover, but the normally safe-handling full-back could not gather the bouncing ball. Barthau, following up, gathered up the ball before touching down.
The 12-point lead lasted barely two minutes as Stanislas Robin – like Barthau for London’s opening score – teased the Broncos line before sending a pass to Gavin Marguerite who went over in the corner.
Kheirallah could not improve the score, but he was less tested, just before the hooter, when another great piece of work from Robin put him in the clear.
His pass has an air of desperation and bounced into space. Two players collided as they chased the bouncing ball – it seemed to accidental contact with two men looking at the ball not where they were running – and it was left to former London Skolar Mourad Kriouache to take the ball between the uprights.
London were shocked at the turn of events and they were grateful to hear the half-time hooter as Toulouse got to within 20 metres of the Broncos line.
It took only 30 seconds of the second half for Toulouse to take the lead. Sebastian Canas made the initial break and the impressive Kheirallah was on hand to take his pass and stride over from 50 metres out.
It was the sort of setback that would force a team searching for confidence to crumble and Broncos fans must have been fearing the worst.
However, last season, London, when they needed a score, often looked to Rhys Williams for delivery and, on this occasion, they went back to the tried and trusted formula. It worked perfectly here.
In the 47th minute, the Broncos moved the ball swiftly along the line to the left and with Alex Walker, chiming into the line, he created an overlap which Williams exploited to touch down. Api Pewhairangi’s conversion from the touchline restored London’s lead and they never looked back.
Six minutes later, another Barthau grubber brought a big reward. Toulouse’s defence had been sucked infield and there was no one to deal with danger. The bounce favoured Williams who was able to touch down just before the ball hit the sideline.
Now it was the turn of Toulouse to panic and their reaction was not as good. Within a couple of minutes of the resumption, Barthau broke through the line but was stopped by an illegal high tackle 15 metres from the try-line.
London might have tried to run the ball for another try but, instead, Pewhairangi kicked the goal. He finished with five goals from six attempts.
Toulouse tried desperately to get back into the game, but they found the Broncos defence in resolute mood. The best example of this was Dan Harrison’s brilliant strip tackle to deny Gregory White as he streaked for the line.
Johnathon Ford also came close but he not only failed to get over the line, he picked up a cut to his head for his troubles.
And London made the game safe with six minutes to go when Pewhairangi bamboozled the Olympique defence and he sent Matt Davis over beside the posts.
London coach Andrew Henderson said, “What we saw today was a really strong team performance. I am delighted with the reaction of the players.
“When we went behind early in the second half, where we have been in the last couple of games, we might have folded. Instead we got a great reaction from every player.
“I want to single out Alex Walker today for special praise. He was outstanding in both attack and defence. Also our pivot players, Api Pewhairangi and Will Barthau and the hookers, James Cunningham and Lewis Foster were superb.”
24. Alex Walker, 2. Rhys Williams, 3. Ben Hellewell, 1. Elliot Kear, 29. Kam Pearce-Paul, 7. William Barthau, 19. Api Pewhairangi, 10. Mark Ioane, 9. James Cunningham, 18. Ben Evans, 11. Daniel Harrison, 13. Jay Pitts, 22. Matt Davis
SUBS: 12. Matt Garside, 17. Mark Offerdahl, 31. Lewis Bienek,33. Lewis Foster
Tries: Pitts (26), Barthau (30), Williams (47, 53), Davis (74).
Goals: Pewhairangi 5/6.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE XIII:
1. Mark Kheirallah, 20. Paul Marcon, 21. Gavin Marguerite, 4. Greg White, 2. Tony Maurel, 6. Johnathon Ford, 7. Stanislas Robin, 8. Clément Boyer, 24. Anthony Marion, 10. Bastien Canet, 11. Sébastien Planas, 12. Rhys Curran, 13. Andrew Bentley
SUBS: 14. Mourad Kriouache, 16. Tyla Hepi, 17. Leha Kalausa Jnr, 26. Constantine Mika
Tries: Marguerite (33), Kriouache (38), Kheirallah (41).
Goals: Kheirallah 2/3.
Written by David Ballheimer