Toulouse Olympique 26 Halifax 36: Fax hang on to book semi spot

In crossing the Channel for the second time in a month Halifax had the opportunity of putting their poor Co-operative Championship form behind them.

And they succeeded in this Northern Rail Cup quarter final eliminator, scoring six well created tries in the process against the very same French opponents who had beaten them in the earlier league opener.

Five of those touch downs were racked up in the first half hour or so of play.

Coach Matt Calland made his charges change in their Toulouse hotel for this tie rather than the stuffy, hot changing rooms at the ground. Indeed the climatic conditions couldn’t have contrasted more with the March trip when wet, windy and cold conditions prevailed.

Last time out the locals played a conservative game which perfectly suited the conditions while Fax tried to manoeuvre themselves around their opponents, playing expansively which just didn’t work. Saturday’s condition were more to their liking and strengths.

However, from the off it was the French side who had the better moments.

Lively Australian half back Nicholls was inventive and his early break nearly put Planas clear but for some resolute Halifax covering to save the danger.

It was obvious in these conditions that the visitors would give the ball plenty of air and utilise their speedy backline.

And it paid off once Toulouse’s early probings had been countered effectively when Worrincy powered his way over for the game’s first try on four minutes after Greenwood had broken the line impressively from deep.

The template was soon established with the experienced veteran Holroyd pulling the strings in midfield through the hands and feet to make life difficult for the French back line in particular.

Releasing Greenwood and Worrincy as often as possible was going to be the key here. The pace and footwork of this pair caused mayhem in the locals’ rear guard, which struggled to cope.

Penkywicz got Fax into double figures with his side’s second try from 15 metres out, even if Holroyd’s final pass may have been a touch forward, and minutes later Cherryholme powered his way over near the posts for a third with the scoreboard operator already struggling to cope.

If the wily Holroyd was the general, both Penkywicz and Jones were more than willing lieutenants in the organisation and orchestrating of play.

The latter proved a right box of tricks and nifty footwork brought him a brace of tries as the game and a possible semi final spot for the home side was evaporating rapidly in front of their eyes.

Nicholls engineered a nice first score for Toulouse for White in response just to give the flame of hope alive as the break approached but at 4-30 it was just a flicker.

It had been a carbon copy of Toulouse’s effort the week before against Featherstone.

The big question at the break would be how they would respond to another possible shellacking.

Down the middle amongst the forwards the French had coped but Nicholls was a sole figure isolated directing play with his supporting cast Lewis and Cook out injured. But to be fair to them they lifted the petard this time to make a game of it.

The third quarter was all Toulouse with Nicholls combining with fellow Australian Wynn for the latter to roar over within seconds of the restart. A few minutes later Faure pinched the ball from a surprised Holroyd one-on-one to saunter over, bringing the gap to just fourteen points difference.

Holroyd though showed his saviour-faire and steadied the ship.

On half way from the scrum feed he spotted the French full back out of position and kicked deep for wing White to use his searing pace to chase and catch with no one near to him to readdress the balance.

Game, set and match even if the locals wouldn’t let go with Villegas running in from half way and Nicholls getting a well deserved try.