Dreadful start costs Rovers dear in second home defeat

Rovers centre Chris Ulugia scores one of his two second-half tries against Toulouse. Picture: Carol Austerberry.
Rovers centre Chris Ulugia scores one of his two second-half tries against Toulouse. Picture: Carol Austerberry.

Featherstone Rovers slipped to a second successive home defeat when they lost 34-26 to Toulouse Olympique after making a dreadful start to Sunday’s Championship game at Big Fellas Stadium.

Rovers were 16-0 down after just 16 minutes but then staged an excellent recovery to cut the gap to two points with centre Chris Ulugia’s second try.

Just when it seemed they were on the brink of snatching an unlikely victory their defence let them down again when they conceded their sixth try of the game eight minutes from time.

Despite being down to 12 men with Bastien Canet in the sin-bin, Toulouse sealed victory when full-back Mark Kheirallah completed a hat-trick of tries to add to his five goals.

The impressive French side, who had a 15-7 penalty count against them, were worthy winners after their forwards came out on top against a disappointing home pack.

Rovers were caught cold when they conceded two tries in the first seven minutes.

Kheirallah grabbed his first before Rhys Curran plunged over from close range

Featherstone fell further behind when Canet and Curran sent Kheirallah racing in for his second.

The home fightback started in the 25th minute when Frankie Mariano went over from Anthony Thackeray’s high kick but the impressive French side then scored their fourth try when Tyla Hepi capitalised on Robin’s towering kick.

Rovers gave themselves hope three minutes before half-time when Davies crossed after good work by Keal Carlile and Jason Walton.

Ian Hardman’s second goal cut the half-time gap to 22-12 but Toulouse went further ahead early in the second period when Robin pounced on Kheirallah’s neat kick to the corner.

Featherstone hauled themselves back into the game when Hardman converted his own try and five minutes later, the deficit was down to six points when Thackeray’s astute kick created Ulugia’s first score.

Toulouse’s Canet was then sin-binned and Rovers quickly cashed in when Ulugia bagged his second from another Thackeray kick.

Hardman failed with the difficult conversion that would have levelled the scores and Toulouse sealed victory when Kheirallah went over from acting half close to the line to complete his treble.

Featherstone’s Richard Moore was sin-binned for punching in the final minute.

Featherstone Rovers: Hardman; Handley, Ulugia, Walton, Briscoe; Thackeray, Wildie; Lockwood, Carlile, Bostock, Mariano, Davies, Tagg. Subs: Moore, Griffin, Walters, Hardcastle.

Toulouse Olympique: Kheirallah; Maurel, Marguerite, Ader, Minga; Ford, Robin; Boyer, Marion, Canet, Planas, Curran, Bentley. Subs: Kriouache, Puech, Hepi, Leha.

Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (Leigh).

Attendance: 2,087.