It was a superb sunny Saturday in Toulouse for the Broncos in more ways than one, when London became the first side to topple Toulouse at their home ground of Stade Ernest Argeles in the league this year, on what was also Andrew Henderson’s birthday.
A ninth consecutive win for the side from the capital, Henderson’s men put in another comprehensive performance from 1-17 in front of a crowd of 2,448, despite sweltering conditions in the afternoon sun.
Henderson had called on his team to write some history earlier in the week, and that they did, having now also done the double over Toulouse Olympique in the 2017 Kingstone Press Championship. Both sides defended valiantly for the first 15 minutes, but it was Andy Ackers who got over the whitewash first, and a fine kick from Dixon added the extras.
Barthau went over only five minutes later, after a well timed offload under pressure from Ackers, and he dotted down under the uprights. Dixon again improved the score, and visiting camp took a 0-12 lead in Blagnac.
On 25 minutes, some great play down the right wing from best friend duo Dixon and Channing culminated in skipper, Daniel Harrison, bagging himself a four pointer, after another brilliantly timed offload from Dixon.
The London winger couldn’t convert, but the Broncos went into the break having kept the home side to nil, with a commanding 0-16 lead.
On the resumption, Alex Walker and Dixon wasted no time in continuing to add to the score sheet – Walker, in the right place at exactly the right time, skilfully collected a high bomb out of the sky, and drove over the line. Six minutes later, Dixon found a gap in Toulouse’s defence – capitalising well on having an extra player, after Anthony Marion was sin binned for an alleged biting incident – and sprinted over the whitewash.
The home side collected their first points of the afternoon nearing the 60 minute mark, when Canet won the race for a loose ball, but Kheirallah was off target with the kick.
Dixon secured his brace not long after – in potentially the try of the afternoon, he magnificently collected the ball in front of the line after seemingly appearing from nowhere, to dive over. He couldn’t convert.
Pewhairangi ended all hopes of a home side comeback on 71 minutes, finding a glaring gap in the French side’s line, and increasing London’s lead to 4-36 after another cracking conversion from Dixon.
Toulouse appeared to have woken up in the final nine minutes of play, Leha crossed, and Canet bagged his brace, but it was too little, too late. London ran home 16-36 victors in arguably the best birthday present Henderson could have asked for, and went second in the league.
“It was a fantastic present for me,” said the London boss.
“I’m really pleased – it was always going to be a tough challenge for us; the travel, the conditions were always going to present a challenge to the team. We prepared really during the week to be able to handle those as best we could.
“I’m very, very proud of my players today. I felt they were very disciplined, ruthless at times today. We were exemplary in the first half.”
1. Mark Kheirallah, 4. Gregory White, 3. Bastien Ader, 21. Gavin Marguerite, 2. Tony Maurel, 24. Anthony Marion, 20. Paul Marcon, 15. Maxime Puech, 14. Mourad Kriouache, 10. Bastien Canet, 26. Constantine Mika, 12. Rhys Curran, 8. Clement Boyer
Subs: 27. Charles Bouzinac, 16. Tyla Hepi, 17. Kalausa Leha, 22. Levy Nzoungou
Tries: Canet (59, 77), Leha (75)
Goals: Kheirallah 2/3
24. Alex Walker, 2. Rhys Williams, 1. Elliot Kear, 20. Michael Channing, 5. Kieran Dixon, 6. Jarrod Sammut, 7. William Barthau, 18. Ben Evans, 14. Andy Ackers, 10. Mark Ioane, 11. Daniel Harrison, 13. Jay Pitts, 15. Eddie Battye
Subs: 19. Api Pewhairangi, 3. Ben Hellewell, 23. Matt Gee, 16. Junior Roqica
Tries: Ackers (15), Barthau (20), Harrison (25), Walker (44), Dixon (51, 67), Pewhairangi (71)
Goals: Dixon 4/7