Doncaster RLFC’s hopes of finishing in the top four of League One suffered a setback in France on Saturday night as they were beaten 46-26 by in-form Toulouse.
The unbeaten home side, tipped to win promotion to the Championship at the first attempt on their return to the British League, looked set to dish out a French (rugby) lesson to the Dons when leading 28-6 at the break.
The Dons, however, who had travelled over to France the day before in order to give themselves the best possible chance of becoming the first League One side to beat Toulouse this season, staged a second half comeback and looked capable of upsetting the odds at one stage after cutting the deficit to just six points.
But the full-time Toulouse side - the top scorers in the division - finished strongly to put the game beyond the South Yorkshire side who can take some consolation from the fact that only leaders Rochdale, who shared 56 points at Spotland, have scored more points against the French side.
The quality of the Toulouse defence was very much in evidence in a first quarter dominated by the Dons, who had two tries disallowed during a spirited start.
It was very much against the run of play when Toulouse opened the scoring on 16 minutes when prop Bastien Canet forced his way over from close range for a converted try.
The home side went close on a couple of occasions prior to winger Kuni Minga capitalising on a huge overlap following some smart handling and support play which was a feature of Toulouse’s game on the night.
Toulouse added a third try on the half-hour to lead 16-0 before hooker Ryan Wright came off the bench to score Doncaster’s opening try after the home side had failed to deal with his kick towards the line. Full-back Tom Carr added the extras.
Toulouse finished the half on top and added two further tries to open up a 22-point interval lead against a Doncaster side lacking several key forwards.
The Dons knew that they had to score first in the second half if they were to mount any sort of a challenge and they did just that with a well-taken try by prop Zac Braham on 44 minutes.
Winger Louis Sheriff capitalised on a fumble by his opposite number from a kick to the corner to score a try to which with Carr added the extras.
Sheriff then turned provider, palming a kick to the corner inside to centre Sam Doherty who touched down near enough for Carr to convert and set the alarm bells ringing.
But that was as good as it got for the Dons as Toulouse added two further tries in the last ten minutes to secure the spoils and take over top spot.
Toulouse: Kheirallah; Maurel,Ader, White, Minga; Ford, Hulme; Puech, Bentley, Canet, Boyer, Curran, Marrion. Subs: Kriouache, Marguerite, Leha, Hepi.
Dons: Carr, Sheriff, Doherty, Tali, Foggin-Johnson; Howden, Hedges; Aizue, Kesik, Scott, L Welham, Foster, B Nicholson. Subs: Wright, B Nicholson, Braham, Milton.