TORONTO WOLFPACK 13 – TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE XIII 12
Gareth O’Brien has a habit of coming up with the big plays at crucial moments in the Qualifiers.
After kicking a match winning golden point field goal to keep Salford in Super League in the 2016 Million Pound Game, the now Wolfpack fullback delivered again with the boot in the dying moments.
O’Brien’s ability to keep his cool to slot over the one pointer with just four minutes to go was exceptional and vitally earned Toronto Wolfpack a dramatic win over Toulouse Olympique, their third win of the post season schedule.
In a highly entertaining and closely fought contest that had a bit of everything, as we’ve come to expect from these two clubs in 2018, Toronto withstood a late surge from the French side, with some heroic defence on show, to edge out one of their promotion rivals and keep the pressure on the top three.
It was a game where neither side were at their best with the ball, particularly the Wolfpack, who saw a number of chances go begging in the second half, but a contest full of spirit and desire, with both sets of players out on their feet at the end in the intense heat in Canada.
The effort of Paul Rowley’s side to hold out Toulouse, who finished the game the stronger, and snatch the victory themselves shows the credentials of the Pack as a force to be reckoned with in these Qualifiers, with their destiny still very much in their own hands with two games remaining.
After a cagey start. Toulouse eventually took the lead with a penalty goal to Mark Kheirallah, after Toronto had been caught offside within kicking distance.
The visitor’s advantage lasted a matter of minutes as the Wolfpack opened their account with a spectacular try to Caton-Brown. On the back of a penalty, a lovely shift play from left to right provided the space for the pacey winger to dot down acrobatically in the right corner.
Caton-Brown was in the thick of the action without the ball shortly after to deny Toulouse a certain try. A break through the middle from Johnathon Ford saw the big stand-off in space but his final pass was picked off by the Toronto winger to keep the host’s line intact.
The game had suddenly opened up, with both sides throwing the ball around to contribute to some end to end action.
Stan Robin found himself sin binned for the visitors after stealing the ball illegally from Blake Wallace following a last ditch tackle and within 60 seconds of being reduced to twelve men they conceded a second try.
Slick handling close to the line involving Wallace and Paterson put Nick Rawsthorne away untouched on the left to double Toronto’s advantage but O’Brien was wide with the conversion to keep the lead at six.
Kheirallah added another close range penalty to cut Toronto’s lead to four before Olympique scored in the dying minutes of the first half to level things up at the break.
Robin returned to the field to create space for Paul Marcon on the right and the winger did exceptionally well to kick and chase beyond O’Brien to touch down in the corner for an eye-catching solo try.
The Wolfpack made the perfect start to the second half, nudging themselves back into the lead on the back of a try to Chase Stanley.
A teasing high kick from Josh McCrone was fumbled by Toulouse, with the centre on hand to catch and ground the ball for a vital four pointer.
After superb defence from Toronto kept Olympique at bay for consecutive sets, the hosts almost produced a stunning try to take control of the contest, but Rawsthorne just couldn’t hang on to Gary Wheeler’s flick pass.
Toronto kept coming forward and were looking the more dangerous of the two sides but couldn’t find the killer play to kick clear as another chance went by when Paterson was denied a try due to a forward pass from Wallace.
Despite shading the possession and territory in the second half, Toronto’s lack of cutting edge with the ball had kept Toulouse within touching distance and the French side levelled matters again inside the final ten minutes to set up a frantic finish.
Following a number of penalties against the home side, Toulouse worked the ball right, with a short pass putting Robin through to score to the right of the posts, but William Barthau missed the conversion to leave the scores locked.
Olympique piled on the pressure and looked likely to score, had it not being for a terrific one on one tackle from Gareth O’Brien to stop opposite number Kheirallah.
O’Brien then stepped up as the hero of the hour for Toronto. After repelling Toulouse at one end, the Wolfpack marched down field and the fullback kicked the field goal and nudge Toronto back in front with four minutes remaining.
The final seconds were real heart in mouth. The visitors hoisted a high kick up, with Tyla Hepi claiming the loose ball to touch down for Toulouse, but the effort was ruled out for a knock on in the contest for the ball to see Toronto hang on to the most dramatic of wins.
Air Transat 1st Star: Gareht O’Brien was the saviour of Toronto with and without the ball. Minutes after producing a match saving tackle on opposite number Mark Kheirallah, the ex-Salford man was on hand to kick the field goal to earn the Wolfpack victory, capping off a strong afternoon’s work from the Wolfpack ace.
Air Transat 2nd Star: Mason Caton-Brown
Air Transat 3rd Star: Bob Beswick
31 Gareth O’Brien
23 Nick Rawsthorne
33 Chase Stanley
4 Gary Wheeler
34 Mason Caton-Brown
6 Josh McCrone (C)
17 Blake Wallace
29 Jake Emmitt
9 Bob Beswick
10 Ashton Sims
11 Andrew Dixon
24 Cory Paterson
13 Jack Bussey
Subs (all used)
8 Jack Buchanan
14 Andy Ackers
15 Adam Sidlow
32 Darcy Lussick
Tries: Caton-Brown (20), Rawsthorne (27), Stanley (44)
Goals: O’Brien 0/3
Field goals: O’Brien 1/1
1 Mark Kheirallah
20 Paul Marcon
4 Gavin Marguerite
3 Bastien Ader
22 Chris Centrone
6 Johnathon Form
7 Stanislas Robin
24 Joe Bretherton
9 Anthony Marion
15 Maxime Puech
11 Sebastien Planas (C)
12 Rhys Curran
18 Sam Rapira
Subs (all used)
8 Clement Boyer
16 Tyla Hepi
23 Justin Sangare
30 William Barthau
Tries: Marcon (38), Robin (71)
Goals: Kheirallah 2/3, Barthau 0/1
Dismissals: Robin (sin bin)
Penalty count: 7-10
Referee: T Grant
Half time: 8-8
Scoring sequence: 0-2, 4-2, 8-2, 8-4, 8-8, 12-8, 12-12, 13-12