Sheffield Eagles v Toulouse Olympique XIII
Friday 19th April 2019, 18:00pm
Championship - Round: 10
Stats over last 8 encounters
Sheffield Eagles made their promotion intentions clear with a stunning victory over Toulouse Olympique on Good Friday.
A masterful hat-trick performance in the halves from Anthony Thackeray, backed up with solid efforts from the likes of Matt James and Sonny Esslemont, helped Sheffield to a comfortable victory over the Frenchmen.
Eagles boss Mark Aston opted for a youthful front-row with Warrington loanee Pat Moran partnering Rory Dixon while Toulouse had their own firepower on the bench in the form of Paterika Vaivai, Tyla Hepi, Jordan Dezaria and James Bell.
Neither side were able to get a foothold in the contest during the opening exchanges as both squandered opportunities with poor ball handling.
The rot came to an end on 18 minutes as Sheffield captain James barged over the whitewash from close range. Pat Walker kicked the first of his eight goals.
Having already intercepted a Toulouse pass earlier on in the contest, Thackeray was once again on the money to snuff out an attack from the visitors and the half-back went the length of the field to extend Sheffield’s lead. Walker added the extras.
Sheffield continued to impress across the park and a titanic effort from James Glover made sure Toulouse didn’t cut the deficit. The centre was the last line of defence following an Olympique break and the former Dewsbury man came to the rescue.
The Eagles added to their tally three minutes before the break as Esslemont lunged over the Toulouse line. Walker goaled from in front and also tagged on a penalty soon after Esslemont was caught with a high tackle.
The last word of the first period did go to Sylvain Houles’ side, who benefited from Thackeray dropping the ball cold. They broke downfield and Mattheiu Jussaume added the finishing touch. Mark Kheirallah converted after the hooter had sounded, Toulouse went into the sheds 20-6 down.
Whatever coach Aston said to his troops at the break certainly worked from the beginning of the second half. Having laid the platform with some nice work with ball in hand, as well as game management to win a goal-line dropout, Sheffield capitalised as Thackeray dummied his way to four points. Walker converted.
Toulouse’s response was emphatic, however. After they had a try ruled out for crossing moments earlier, the visitors regained possession and Hepi’s break was supported by William Barthau who did the rest. Kheirallah tagged on the two points.
In the final quarter, Sheffield were looking to kill the game as a contest and they did just that with two tries in the space of three minutes.
Firstly, Ryan Millar was on hand to collect a dropped Toulouse ball and the winger streaked 80-metres to the try-line. Walker converted and he soon had the kicking tee back out.
A threatening Olympique attack broke down in tatters when Thackeray intercepted and despite a valiant defensive chase, the experienced playmaker was not going to be denied his hat-trick. Walker converted from a tricky angle, making the score 38-12 with 15-minutes left to play.
Toulouse were still pressing for a late comeback and they forced a goal-line dropout to put some pressure on the Eagles, who were showing some stereotypical Sheffield steel in defence.
Houles’ men did show class on occasions and their willingness to throw the ball wide did bring a reward as Paul Marcon bypassed Millar to get over the line. Kheriallah’s conversion was wide of the mark.
On a day where Sheffield’s playoff hopes were boosted, it was quite fitting that club captain James had the final word as he brushed his way past Toulouse’s defence to dot down. Walker kept his 100% conversion tally right till the end, with the final kick of the game.
By Dan Fowler for the League Weekly