Batley Bulldogs produced a vastly improved performance to push high flying Toulouse close before eventually slipping to a 28-20 defeat at Fox’s Biscuits Stadium last Sunday.
Batley impressed playing down the slope in the first half and built up a deserved 14-6 interval lead before Toulouse fought back.
Toulouse responded after the break and two early tries put them ahead. Shaun Ainscough’s 61st minute try saw the Bulldogs regain the advantage only for Olympique to score twice in the final quarter and take the points back to France.
Batley made a bright start and went close to taking the lead when scrambling defence from Toulouse kept Sam Smeaton at bay.
Against the run of play, Toulouse struck the first blow as Con Mika broke upfield and found Stan Robin in support to send the scrum half over, with Mark Kheirallah landing the first of his four goals.
Batley were behind for just five minutes and Domninic Brambani gathered a pass and produced a lovely weighted kick through for Wayne Reittie to gather and score.
Brambani levelled matters with the conversion and edged Batley ahead with a penalty.
Batley were playing some fine rugby and James Brown created an opening for Ainscough but the winger was hauled down by Mika.
With half-time looming, Reittie stormed over for his second try in the corner and Brambani landed a terrific touchline goal as the hooter sounded.
Batley’s eight-point lead was whittled away in seven second half minutes as Kheirallah broke away and his long pass sent winger Paul Macron racing away to score an unconverted try.
Toulouse launched another attack straight from the kick off as Mika broke and Robin continued the move before sending Anthony Marion over for a try that Kheirallah converted.
Batley responded superbly and only a knock-on denied James Brown as the Bulldogs piled on the pressure.
Batley forced their way back up the slope and Cain Southernwood’s high kick was dropped by Kheirallah and Ainscough gathered to gleefully score. Brambani converted to put Batley 20-16 ahead.
Toulouse forced their way back down field and when Batley failed to deal with Robin’s dangerous kick, Mika pounced on the loose ball to score the visitors’ third try.
Kheirallah converted as the lead changed hands once more.
Batley again looked for a response but were unable to break the Toulouse defence and it was the French side who sealed victory five minutes from full-time.
Kane Bentley was initially held up over the line but successive penalties allowed Toulouse to maintain the pressure and Bentley forced his way over.
Kheirallah converted to seal the win but Batley can take real heart from their performance.