Toulouse Make Neutrals Rethink The Narrative On Opening Championship Weekend

TO were healthy winners at Barrow as Widnes also grabbed a big away victory
11:22, 06 Feb 2023

All the buzz around the Betfred Championship running into the first weekend was about how the decimation of Toulouse Olympique’s squad following relegation from the Super League might make promotion more attainable for everyone else in 2023. But TO’s demise might have been somewhat exaggerated judging by their clinical victory over the Barrow Raiders on opening day.

The French side went to Cumbria to face a Raiders side who finished fourth last season and were expected to pose a tough test, especially given the fact Toulouse had named only 19 players on the release of their squad numbers in January before the recent additions of Greg Richards, Robin Brochon and Pierre-Jean Lima.

But new signings Jake Shorrocks and Josh Ralph shone at the Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium as TO registered a 24-4 win which will have many reassessing their expectations of the side who finished bottom in their first top-flight season last term.


They quickly raced into a 12-0 lead with three tries down their left from Olly Ashall-Bott, Reuben Rennie and Benjamin Laguerre, and while Ryan Shaw hit back for the hosts the Raiders never got any closer as they were given a lesson in how to front up in both 20s by Sylvain Houles’ side.

Dom Peyroux and Laguerre grabbed further tries either side of half-time, with the excellent Shorrocks – signed from Newcastle Thunder after a promising stint as a youth with Wigan Warriors – rounding out the scoring late on.

While it was notable that none of the seven tries on the afternoon were converted, it was still an early marker laid down from the visitors as their forceful defensive line and sharp red-zone attack made all the difference. That thin squad might be a factor already though, with Ashall-Bott and Laguerre both going off injured in the second half.

Barrow coach Paul Crarey was scathing of his side's performance, telling “If you run at 65 per cent completion, commit 11 errors, give the ball away cheaply and miss try-scoring opportunities, you won’t do anything in this division.

“I’m pretty disappointed. It’s the first time I’ve ever gone in and expressed my feelings after the game because I know we’re better than that."


Sunday’s action was headlined with a thrilling win for Widnes Vikings away to the York Knights, who had led at the break thanks to a converted Danny Kirmond try which had answered Ryan Millar’s spectacular early effort.

Shane Grady and Joe Brown scored for either side as the lead changed hands twice more, then Ant Walker put the Vikings in front for a third time with a barnstorming finish. Jack Owens added the conversion and a penalty to give Widnes a six-point advantage but it wasn’t until Tom Gilmore’s late drop-goal that the two points were safe as John Kear’s side triumphed 19-12.

Promoted Swinton Lions found the going tough against Newcastle Thunder, losing 18-6 on their return to the Championship, while there were also wins for Bradford Bulls, Halifax Panthers and Batley Bulldogs. Keighley Cougars meet Featherstone Rovers in Monday’s televised game to wrap up what has been a fantastic opening weekend so far.


*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change

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