Toulouse v Salford.
In the years I’ve watched Salford we’ve never been the media darlings. At times the side has let the club down with poor performances and big defeats but over the last few years the team and club have made the City proud with their achievements. We don’t have the resources that other clubs have but the team spirit under coach Paul Rowley is one to be admired. Add to that the great work that’s going on off the field with the foundation, the ladies team, the supporters trust and the PDRL team I think the club deserves some kind words. I am not really fussed what pundits say about us but some comments last weekend were way off the mark. People are entitled to their opinions and I respect that but at times in Rugby League their can be a stench of favouritism and snobbery shown towards certain clubs, a complete lack of respect.
What a heroic match we saw last Sunday. The perfect combination of blistering attack and courageous never say die defence humbled Catalans. I was loitering around near the changing rooms after the match to get an interview and the procession of injured players that walked out one after the other hammered home the fact that we are really low on numbers. To do what they did in that heat was nothing short of sensational.
This weeks opponents Toulouse have had a real upturn in form with three victories on the trot and their home form in France is pretty good too. They certainly are tough nut to crack on home soil.
Salford 26 Toulouse 10 challenge cup 2003.
Salford 44 Toulouse 10 Qualifiers 2018.
Salford 38 Toulouse 12 Super League 2022.
They played for both.
Andrew Dixon, Harrison Hansen and Jodie Broughton.
A match to remember 26th January 2003 Challenge Cup.
Salford 26 Toulouse 10
Full-back Jason Flowers scored the first and last tries for Salford, with Alan Hunte, Stuart Littler and Cliff Beverley touched down.
Australian James Wynne provided Toulouse’s only real highlight, a searing break setting up winger Ludovic Perolari.
Toulouse then got the score back to 14-10 when full-back Dave Mulholland slid over for a 67th-minute try and stand-off Julien Gerin added the angled conversion.
But the Reds quickly regained the ascendancy, with second rower Simon Baldwin breaking clear to send Beverley over for his first try for the club.
Flowers then sealed on the win with his second try, Gavin Clinch adding a second goal.
It was a fiery contest, ill tempered at times but Karl Harrison’s side just did enough to progress to the next round of the Challenge cup. It would be an exciting cup run in 2003.
The teams that day were;
Salford: Flowers; Hunte, Littler, Beverley, Arnold; Bowker, Clinch; Coley, Alker, P Highton, Baldwin, Lowe, Marsh. Substitutes: Charles, D Highton, Gorski, Baynes.
Toulouse: Mulholland; Perolari, Zitter, Kelly, Couturier; Gerin, Wynne; Pramil, Leib, Rodriquez, Amigas, Raguin, Robinson. Substitutes: Gay, Delpoux, Frayssinet, Estebanez.
Referee: C Morris (Huddersfield)
Toulouse in focus.
Founded in 1937, two years after the French Rugby League Federation, they are six-time winners of the French Rugby League Championship.
Toulouse hosted the first ever French rugby league Lord Derby Cup Final in 1935 when Lyon Villeurbanne beat XIII Catalan at the Stade des Minimes. The first rugby league club in the city were Gallia de Toulouse who started the 1935 season but lasted only two matches before dropping down to the amateur level of the newly introduced sport. Toulouse Olympique were formed in 1937 by Jean Galia and played their first league match on 24 October 1937 losing 14-44 at home against RC Albi at their new home the Arnaune Stadium now called the Stade des Minimes. The club finished 8th in that debut season under coach Jean Galia. In their second season, 38/39 they reached the cup final losing 3-7 against XIII Catalan and finished 5th in the league. The clubs last match before the war was against Villefranche de Lauragais winning 62-5. During the war years, like other rugby league clubs in France, the club were forced to play rugby union following the ban on rugby league by the Vichy regime in France.
In 1944, Toulouse reached the Semi-Final of the French Cup in rugby union. In the meantime the Arnauné stadium was confiscated by the State, like most of the assets of the French Federation of rugby league. Following liberation by the Allies and the restoration of the French Championship, the club were on the losing side twice when they met Carcassonne in the finals for the 1944-45 and 1945-46 competitions. After two decades away from the top, another strong team emerged that included Pierre Lacaze and under coach Georges Aillères having finished runner-up in the league in 63/64, they then lifted their first league title the following season beating US Villeneuve in the final 47-15. During the 1960s they also reached four cup finals but lost them all, 1962 against RC Roanne XIII 10-16, 1963 against AS Carcassonne 0-5, 1964 against US Villeneuve 2-10 and 1968 against AS Carcassonne 2-9. During the early 70s they lifted two more league titles, in season 72/73 they beat Marseille XIII 18-0 and in 74/75 they beat AS Saint Esteve 10-9. Their 1976 cup final defeat to XIII Catalan 8-23 would be their last final appearance in either league or cup until the new millennium.
The club played in the Rugby Football League’s Championship competition in 2009 and 2010. They returned to the Elite One Championship in 2011, but in 2016 again joined the RFL system, this time in League 1, the third tier of English rugby league, being promoted to the Championship at the end of that season.
Victory over Featherstone Rovers in the Million pound game last season 34-12 gave Toulouse promotion to Rugby Leagues Top Flight.
It’s been a tough baptism in the Super League but over the last few week’s Toulouse have climbed off the bottom of the table to go above Wakefield. Three wins on the trot including two emphatic ones at home to Hull Kingston Rovers and Leeds have given the French side a real fighting chance of staying up. Coach Sylvain Houles is a bright young coach who’s getting the best out of his squad and promoting an attractive brand of Rugby League along the way.
The French weather for weekend looks pretty warm so it’s going to be another huge test of the players endurance and resolve. Sam Luckley will miss out through suspension after an incident in the match last Sunday. That’s a shame because Sam has been in terrific form in recent weeks. I certainly hope he signs a new contract to stay with Salford in 2023 and beyond.
Toulouse showed real character at the Magic Weekend to storm back to beat Wakefield and their is no doubt they are now playing with renewed optimism and confidence. Corey Norman and Tony Gigot can be a real handful on the attack. Former Wigan and Swinton back Chris Hankinson has plenty of experience and is a solid goal kicker. Veteran forward Harrison Hansen played at Salford in 2014/2015. Now with Toulouse the thirty six year old has clocked up well over three hundred top flight matches. With five wins in the Super League Toulouse have also come very close in quite a few defeats.
Wigan and Huddersfield beat Toulouse 28-29 and 17-16 respectively and both those games were last gasp as well.
Both these teams like to play Rugby League the right way. Salford’s attack has been sensational at times in 2022. Brodie Croft looks so dangerous every time he’s got the ball. The Australian is working well with half back partner Marc Sneyd and when Ryan Brierley links up the Red Devils can score from anywhere on the pitch. Andy Ackers had a great game last Sunday too.
The top six is a very realistic target but with a squad that keeps getting thinner it’s going to be a very testing mission.
The action gets under way at 7pm.
Safe travels and enjoy the match.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos