FEATHERSTONE Rovers were pipped 32-26 in this evening’s Kingstone Press Championship game against Toulouse Olypique at Stade Ernest-Argeles in new coach John Duffy’s first match in charge.
The scores were level at 26-26 when Toulouse got the edge in a nail-biting finish with Kuni Minga’s second try in the final minute.
Shortly before that Featherstone’s Anthony Thackeray missed with a drop goal attempt from about 20 yards out.
The defeat was cruel on Rovers who had recovered from 20-12 down to lead 24-20 in their final fixture of the regular season.
They battled excellently in a thrilling clash that could easily have gone either way.
Toulouse’s victory saw them complete a league double over Rovers. It lifted them to fourth place, level on points with Halifax but with a superior points difference.
Halifax now need to take at least a point from their game against table-toppers Hull KR at The Shay tomorrow to make the top four.
If Halifax win, they will finish above Featherstone in third place.
Rovers, with former Widnes prop Sam Brooks making his debut, were the first to threaten when Darrell Griffin was halted just short but Toulouse had a let off when Frankie Mariano lost the ball close to the try line.
Toulouse went ahead against the run of play when they broke down the left wing and Minga beat Ian Hardman to score a ninth minute try.
Featherstone replied four minutes later when superb attacking play led to Thackeray crossing.
The home side then took control with two tries in five minutes.
Rhys Curran went over in the 17th minutes from what looked a forward pass and Mark Kheirallah added his second goal before Bastien Ader powered over in the corner to make it 16-6.
Matty Wildie was held up over the line as Rovers rallied.
They cut the gap when substitute Kyle Briggs marked his return by racing over from 45 yards out after clever play by Thackeray.
Kheirallah then dived over at the corner to put the French side 20-12 up but Featherstone struck back again shortly before half-time when Scott Turner scored from a scrum move and Hardman kicked his third goal to cut the gap to 20-18.
They grabbed the lead six minutes into the second-half when a superb pass by Briggs sent in Jason Walton and Hardman converted.
Featherstone defended magnficently to survive sustained Toulouse pressure but the home side finally found a way through 15 minutes from time when Stanislas Robin put in Kheirallah for his second touchdown which full-back also goaled to edge the French team two points ahead.
Rovers levelled the scores five minutes later when Hardman was on target from wide out when they were awarded a penalty after Turner was tackled in the air catching Thackeray’s kick.
Toulouse had a chance to regain the lead but Kheirallah failed with a penalty goal kick.
Featherstone’s Briggs and Thackeray then both failed with drop goal attempts before Toulouse snatched victory when Minga bagged his second touchdown and Kheirallah added the extras.
Toulouse Olympique: Kheirallah; Marcon, Planas, Ader, Minga; Robin, Marion; Boyer, Bentley, Canet, Mika, Curran, Bentley. Subs: Bouzinac, Puech, Hepi, Sangare.
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman; Turner, Taulapapa, Hardcastle, Briscoe; Thackeray, Wildie; Brooks, Carlile, Griffin, Mariano, Walton, Lockwood. Subs: Briggs, Moore, Bostck, Igbinedion.
Referee: Liam Moore.