Sunday, 21 August 2016


Toulouse 46 - Hornets 6

It's fair to say that Toulouse Olympique don't want teams to come here and give them a contest. The whole charade is an ambush: a mugging cunningly disguised as sport.

As TOXIIIC steamroller their way to inevitable promotion, they neither want nor like teams that give them a hard time. They want undercooked teams flown in the night before, served up as cannon fodder for their dead-eyed mercenaries to pummel for the delight of their cashed-up paymasters.

And don't believe any of the hype surrounding Toulouse as a club. This is without doubt one of the most hollow, soulless RL experiences you'll find anywhere in the 13-man world.

Their club is a facade - a crowd of no more than 500 belying their supposed huge potential; a professional band hired in to play for the full 80 minutes to drown out the embarrassing silence; the playing of crowd noise over the tannoy to create a karaoke atmosphere; the over-excited tannoy announcer single handedly leading the crowd chant when the home side are attacking; the playing of music during breaks in play (scrums, injuries). Any one of these would ruin your afternoon...

And then there's the way Toulouse play: fast & direct, yes - but leaving something in every tackle on attack and defence. And seeing Jonathan Ford reduced to begging for penalties after every tackle is just embarrassing.

Hornets ripped in from the off, but two breaks against the run of play saw the home side exploit Hornets' right edge to sneak two tries in two minutes from Kheralla and Minga (TBC).

But Hornets dug in and for 20 minutes clawed their way back into the game. But as it looked like the visitors were making headway, Jo Taira was sin-binned after tracking back to stem a huge TO break. This gave TO some momentum, and when Ford's punt & hope kick bounced freakishly behind a retreating Hornets defence, it was a let off when three chasing 'Frenchmen' failed to touch down.

Having ridden out the one man deficit, Hornets drove the home side back onto their own goal-line, where Jono Smith stepped wide to score. Crooky the extras, and the home fans really edgy at 10-6.

With Hornets now in the ascendancy, TO came up with a heartbreaking play: Ford's break, Minga's chip and Planas gathering to send TO in 16-6 up at the break.

The second half was a battle: ugly, brutal and punishing as an accelerating penalty count frayed nerves and tempers. Jo Taira set the tone after just two minutes when a shuddering hit on the TO 9 Bentley left him in a crumpled heap. Having dared to offer resistance, TO's response was to start a fight at the next tackle - Hornets seen as transgressors despite TO's repeated habit of leading with the elbow.

And when Ford was put on his arse, he went crying to Mr Bloem who duly gave a penalty. When the home side knocked on the resulting play, Ford continued his skriking to the officials. Pathetic.

Indeed, when Hulme caught Hornets napping at a scrum to score after 46 minutes, it carried a sense of injustice.

Hornets continued to push and probe, but the effort was beginning to take its toll: Mike Ratu clearly struggling, Jake Shoel removed with an arm injury, Danny Yates hit high, requiring repeated treatment.

As the defence reshuffled to accommodate Alex Trumper, Minga capitalised off a pass so forward even the home fans were stunned. 28-6 and the game pretty much gone.

On the Hour, Hulme took advantage of two fights happening in back play to plant the ball under the black dot. Mr Bloem consulted his French Touch Judge, gave TO a team warning - and went and gave the try. Unbelievable.

A minute later, Lewis Galbraith was sin-binned after complaining that his opposite number had led with an elbow; and when Ben Moores followed four minutes later for defending himself, TO took cruel advantage of an 11 man Hornets.

First Planas spinning out of a tired tackle to score, then Minga taking the scenic route to outpace the chasing cover from 80 metres: easy with a two man advantage.

So, final score 46-6: but the score doesn't tell the tale. Hornets threw the kitchen sink at TO and had them visibly rattled. But two spells playing short and the home side's desperate histrionics to con penalties took a heavy toll.

In the end, the home fans (basically friends and family and an entourage of hangers-on) were delighted to have effectively secured top spot.

And, while the circumstances of the win were soul-destroying - Hornets came away from Toulouse knowing that at least our club has a soul to destroy.