Catalans Dragons 18-10 Toulouse Olympique: Fouad Yaha doubles up as 12-man hosts take first French Super League derby
France international Fouad Yaha crossed twice, with Joe Chan and Matt Whitley also going over as Catalans won the first all-French Betfred Super League derby; Chan was sent off, while Toulouse had two men sin-binned; Guy Armitage and Matty Russell grabbed the visitors' tries
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 15/04/22 1:57pm
Two tries from Fouad Yaha helped Catalans Dragons to victory over Toulouse Olympique in the Betfred Super League’s first all-French derby, despite a second-half red card for Joe Chan.
Yaha's first-half double and another try from Chan put Catalans into the lead, with Toulouse's cause not being helped by Matty Russell being sent to the sin-bin. However, a converted try from Guy Armitage on the stroke of half-time cut the gap to eight points and gave the visitors hope.
Referee Robert Hicks was one of the busiest men on the field, handing out another yellow card to Eloi Pelissier soon after the restart and then dismissing interchange hooker Chan for a dangerous tackle soon after Matt Whitley had extended Catalans' lead.
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Scotland international Russell's try soon after that sending-off gave Toulouse hope of mounting a fightback, but the promoted side were unable to overhaul the eight-point deficit as last year's Grand Final runners-up saw out the match for victory.
Story of the game
Both sides were clearly pumped up for the first meeting of two French teams in Super League's 27-year history, but it was all Catalans in the opening minutes. However, they were unable to capitalise on three repeat sets of six tackles as Toulouse weathered the early storm.
Yaha broke the deadlock in the seventh minute though after Josh Drinkwater picked him out on the left wing with a superb cut-out pass which sent the winger sprinting down the touchline from just inside the Dragons' half, followed by him throwing a dummy to deceive the defence and finishing.
Toulouse were not without opportunities as ex-Catalans half-back Tony Gigot's attacking kicks, particularly to Paul Marcon in the right corner, were testing without yielding reward, while Justin Sangare had a possible score chalked off by the video referee when replays showed he was short of the try-line.
Sam Tomkins joined the list of absentees for Catalans Dragons after suffering a fractured fibula which will keep the reigning Man of Steel out for around five weeks.
Experienced back row Dom Peyroux was ruled out for Toulouse Olympique after suffering a fractured jaw in training in the build-up to this match.
Catalans stayed patient though and were in again on 28 minutes as Mike McMeeken made the hard yards before offloading to Chan for him to burst over for a try which was converted this time by half-back Drinkwater.
Three minutes later, Toulouse found themselves temporarily down to 12 as Russell was shown a yellow card for a tactical foul and the Dragons swiftly punished them as the ball was worked out for Yaha to finish from close range.
But despite the numerical disadvantage, the away side struck back just before the break as former Toulon rugby union centre Armitage took a pass from Pelissier and forced his way over for his fifth try of the season, which Chris Hankinson also converted.
Yet a yellow card for hooker Pelissier for a shoulder charge on Sam Kasiano which spark a coming together between both sets of players put Toulouse on the back foot again early in the second half, followed by the Dragons scoring again when Drinkwater found Whitely on the left for the second row to dummy and burst over for his side's fourth try.
Catalans Dragons 18-10 Toulouse Olympique
Catalans Dragons: Tries – Fouad Yaha (2), Joe Chan, Matt Whitley; Goals – Josh Drinkwater.
Toulouse Olympique: Tries – Guy Armitage, Matty Russell; Goals – Chris Hankinson.
There was another twist to come though as Catalans were reduced to 12 for the rest of the match when try-scorer Chan was dismissed for a dangerous tackle on Maxime Stefani and Toulouse quickly worked an attack which saw them shift the ball wide for Hankinson to send Russell over for an unconverted 52nd-minute try.
Toulouse battled valiantly after this in an effort to overhaul the deficit and claim only their second win since earning promotion to Super League, but errors at crucial moments proved costly and the closest they came to scoring again was centre Armitage being held up over the line thanks to some fine defence from Yaha.
Catalans were then able to see out the rest of the match and celebrate victory in front of 8,922 fans at Stade Gilbert Brutus, but there was a sour note for Steve McNamara's men as Mike McMeeken left in ambulance on a drip after suffering an injury to his arm in the second half.
What they said
Catalans Dragons head coach Steve McNamara
"I thought it was a poor game. The scoreboard was reasonably close… but not great quality from either side. I've experienced so many local derbies and no matter where you are or what you're doing these games can be like that - and this game was the same.
"We had to dig deep. We weren't playing well before we went down to 12 men and Toulouse can exploit space, so that's probably the positive from that to be able to defend that for 30 minutes with 12 men."
Toulouse Olympique head coach Sylvain Houles
"I don't think we should have lost this. When it's 13 against 12, we lacked a little bit of composure…and it was there for us. I'm sad for us, it's there for us and we needed those two points.
"You could feel it was tense… It was the first one and I think everybody wanted to get the better of each other. That's what the derby is about."
Both teams are back in action in Super League on Easter Monday, with Catalans heading to Salford Red Devils and Toulouse welcoming Hull Kingston Rovers to Stade Ernest Wallon.