Halifax Panthers fall short in amazing comeback effort against Toulouse

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​Halifax Panthers produced an amazing second half comeback, but fell short after giving themselves too much to do in their Betfred Championship game against Toulouse Olympique at The Shay.

At 30-0 down at half-time the Panthers looked dead and buried yet they stormed back to get within six points in the second period.

But just as the momentum was with Liam Finn’s men they were unable to keep it going and the French visitors went home with the points from a 38-24 victory.

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A Jake Shorrocks penalty and a Dom Peyroux try on the final hooter finally gave Toulouse the win, but they had been made to fight all the way to the hooter.

Jason Saltonstall gets the ball down in the corner for a Halifax Panthers try against Toulouse. Picture: Craig IrvineJason Saltonstall gets the ball down in the corner for a Halifax Panthers try against Toulouse. Picture: Craig Irvine
Jason Saltonstall gets the ball down in the corner for a Halifax Panthers try against Toulouse. Picture: Craig Irvine

That victory had not looked in any doubt in a dominant first half display by Toulouse and an ineffective attacking performance by the hosts.

The visitors were ahead after only two minutes as off the back of a set restart Shorrocks went through a gap and dummied his way past Gareth Widdop to race over for a try to which he added the first of seven conversions.

Ten minutes later Paul Ulberg got on the end of a Maxime Stefani grubber to score the second try then Lambert Belmas powered over from close range.

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Calum Gahan sneaked over from dummy-half before Paul Marcon collected the ball from a Ryan Rivett crossfield kick and Shorrocks’ fifth goal made it 30-0 at the break.

Ed Barber celebrates scoring a try for Halifax Panthers. Picture: Craig IrvineEd Barber celebrates scoring a try for Halifax Panthers. Picture: Craig Irvine
Ed Barber celebrates scoring a try for Halifax Panthers. Picture: Craig Irvine

Head coach Finn’s half-time team talk had the desired effect as Fax looked a different side in the second 40.

A reshuffle also worked as Louis Jouffret moved to hooker, Widdop to half-back, James Woodburn-Hall to full-back and Ed Barber into the centres.

Suddenly from nowhere the home team had their opponents back pedalling and scored four tries in 20 minutes without reply to produce a comeback that was hard to see coming at the interval.

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First Matty Gee dummied to open up some space and powered his way through.

Halifax and Toulouse players compete for a high ball. Picture: Craig IrvineHalifax and Toulouse players compete for a high ball. Picture: Craig Irvine
Halifax and Toulouse players compete for a high ball. Picture: Craig Irvine

Then Barber took over. After a couple of half-breaks he crossed for two quickfire tries, leaping to claim a Joe Keyes crossfield kick and bursting through the Toulouse defence for a second score shortly after.

Barber turned provider as he sent James Saltonstall through for another try and with Jouffret proving perfect with the boot to kick all four conversions it was 30-24.

All the momentum was with the Panthers and they had 10 minutes left to complete their amazing turnaround with their opponents seemingly wilting in the sunshine.

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However, the French side dug in and rediscovered their attacking ability.

Mathieu Pons takes the game to Toulouse.Mathieu Pons takes the game to Toulouse.
Mathieu Pons takes the game to Toulouse.

Zack McComb charged down a Shorrocks drop-goal attempt to keep Toulouse out, but the respite was brief as referee James Vella ruled Fax reefed the ball out from a tackle and Shorrocks booted the resulting penalty over from 45m.

Seven points down, the Panthers became increasingly desperate now and it was all over when Peyroux went over for a Toulouse try in the final seconds.

Fax could take plenty out of the second half, but know they need to start better than they did last Saturday if they are to start climbing the table.

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