Swinton Lions almost made the perfect second-half comeback, but French outfit Toulouse Olympique held strong for a 26-24 victory.
Swinton Lions returned to Heywood Road in almost perfect style, but a second-half comeback was cut short as Stuart Littler’s side didn’t have enough time to secure the victory.
Toulouse Olympique will be going back home with the two points but were made to fight for their victory with some players out on their feet at the end after being given a stern test by the Lions.
Olympique took the lead after only four minutes when some good passing near the line got Gavin Marguerite over in the corner but Mark Kheirallah could not add the conversion points and then from straight from the restart the ball went dead and from the resulting penalty the visitors moved quickly up field and Dean Parata went in by the posts from short range, with this time Kheirallah making no mistake with the simple conversion.
The Lions then had their first chance when they forced a goal line drop out after ten minutes and they got over for a try in this set when Rob Fairclough fed Mike Butt to score in the left corner and Harry Smith slotted a great conversion off the touchline to bring the Lions within four points. An incident that involved a tackle on Constantine Mika went on report on twenty-one minutes but the Lions were coming back into the game and the next try was well worked with Lewis Hatton, Smith and Liam Paisley all involved which sent Jack Hansen racing away to score by the posts and Smith added the conversion to put the Lions two points ahead.
Olympique hit back again five minutes later when the Lions gave away two penalties by the line and Mika went over on the right but again Kheirallah could not convert this one. Ben Evans was held up six minutes from the break and in the same set the Lions defence allowed Kheirallah to dive over on the left but again he was unable to convert but they held a six point lead at the break.
The Lions made a bright start to the second half and Paisley was held up in the opening minutes but it was the visitors who scored next when Parata went over from close range for his second by the posts and this one was converted. The game was pretty end to end for the next ten minutes and there was some great defence on show. Olympique almost bounced back on sixty-five minutes when Jordan Dezaria was held up and then the Lions came close themselves and it took some good defence to stop them breaching the line. Another tackle went on report on sixty-nine minutes when Butt seemed to go down heavy holding his neck.
Halfback Fairclough then became a try scorer himself, with a beautiful show-and-go near the visitor’s try line to crash over and bring the scores even closer with time looming.
Kheirallah then kicked a penalty goal with ten minutes left from forty metres for a high tackle but the Lions again hit back three minutes later when some great passing saw Liam Forsyth cross in the right corner from a Chris Hankinson pass and Smith again kicked another super conversion off the touchline to bring his side within two points. The Lions threw everything at their visitors in the dying minutes and almost scored on the last play of the match when Butt almost got Fairclough over in the corner but the defence just about held him out as the hooter sounded.