Hull Kingston Rovers tasted defeat for the first time this season when they went down 14-6 to Toulouse Olympique on a warm sunny day in Southern France.
A youthful looking Rovers squad, without the services of a host of senior stars including captain Shaun Lunt, James Donaldson, Danny Addy and points machine Jamie Ellis among others would always have a tough ask against second placed Olympique who fielded a near full strength squad but by and large stood up to the test that despite the result and losing that 100% start to the season will give the fringe players confidence as the season progresses.
In front of a considerable travelling contingent of Rovers fans, it was Olympique’s Cook Island international, Johnathon Ford who started the ball rolling, when his offload to Rhys Curran was tipped on to Kuni Minga who made no mistake opening the scores on the left edge. Mark Kheirallah was unsuccessful adding the extras.
On the back of some ill discipline on the part of the hosts and astute kicking from the Robins they were applying pressure on Toulouse with four successive sets in the danger zone but nothing was to come of it for the Robins, as Mitch Clark spilled a Jordan Abdull pass. The knock on was compounded by a penalty to the hosts at the resultant scrum. Ford was instrumental in the next scoring passage as he was held down a little too long by Chris Clarkson as he broke upfield, from the next set Clarkson was penalised again for laying on and Kheirallah duly obliged and slotted over the penalty to make it 6-0.
Both sides then traded set for set and the Robins breached the home defence only for the industrious Zach Dockar-Clay to be pulled back for obstruction in the act of scoring, using Clarkson as a shield. With 31 minutes gone the busy Ford was again involved, as he chipped over the Rovers defence 20 metres out, Joe Cator was pulled for obstruction and again Mark Kheirallah kicked the penalty to make it 8-0 at the break.
The second half saw both sides again going set for set but Rovers were finding it hard to breach the Toulouse defensive line, although they had a try chalked off again when Dockar-Clay was adjudged to have knocked on after a ball steal.
Despite taking the penalties on offer in the 1st half, Toulouse spurned the opportunity 10 minutes into the 2nd period in order to extend their advantage but were penalised themselves for a double movement. Minutes later a terrific try saving effort from Joe Wardill to hold the Toulouse man up over the line and moments later the Robins were right back in the game when the returning Andrew Heffernan was put through a gap by Jordan Abdull who showed some fancy footwork to get clear and dive under the sticks. Dockar-Clay improved the try from in front, 8-6 with 15 minutes to play.
In the final period Toulouse (pictured) pressurised the Robins line, with 10 minutes left Toulouse were again held up over the line. The Robins were finding it difficult to get out of their own 20 and had to be content with soaking up the pressure, but with four minutes remaining the pressure told and Rhys Curran scored the all important try, again converted to make the final score 14-6. Rovers had grounds to complain when Ben Cockayne was adjudged to have knocked on from a 20 metre restart but the complaints went unheard and the try stood.
Tim Sheens will have been happy with some of the younger stars in the side against a much more experienced side but he will be hopeful of some good news on the injury front ahead of next Saturday’s Challenge Cup trip to Leigh Centurions. The Robins remain a healthy four points clear in the Championship and will look forward to next week’s test against the side who took their place in Super League.