One of only two Super League defeats St Helens have suffered this season came against newcomers Toulouse Olympique in the south of France a few months ago, but it was a case of once bitten twice shy on their return to the Stade Ernest-Wollon on Saturday night where a 28-14 scoreline adequately summed up their superiority.
It wasn’t, however, a vintage display by the table-toppers who had to pull out all the stops to cross the winning line.
Head coach Kristian Woolf admitted: “We had to work really hard to get anything out of the game.
“We came to play and I always thought we would get on top but it’s a tough trip and there were occasions where we looked a bit heavy legged.”
He added: “There were no surprises ahead of our second visit to France this year and we knew what to expect. Toulouse are a very good side and they are going to be tough to beat here.”
Questioned about the 14-3 penalty count in favour of Toulouse, Woolf said, “I thought there was a couple of home team decisions but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
“I wasn’t worried about it to be honest, I didn’t think we were particularly ill-disciplined.
“We got a couple of decisions wrong at different times but the thing I was most unhappy about was the two tries we conceded, that’s not our standard and not the way we usually defend but we also played some good footy.”
The game was under threat when scheduled referee Liam Moore, from Wigan, and his fellow RFL officials got stuck in Munich after delays to their travel arrangements at Manchester Airport, but an all-French group led by referee Geoffrey Poumes stepped in at the last minute to save the day.
Morgan Knowles, Tommy Makinson, Konrad Hurrell, Jack Welsby and Regan Grace all crossed for Saints with Harrison Hansen and Chris Hankinson going over for the hosts.
As for Toulouse, coach Sylvain Houles said he was proud of the way his side stood up to the champions, adding: “St Helens were much better prepared for us this time and they probably didn’t take us as lightly as they did last time.
“But we expected that and we prepared well and I thought the boys really dug deep and made St Helens work very hard.
“At 14-8 we probably didn’t take our chances as well as we could have. If we had scored then it would have been a totally different game and maybe a different result.
“But this hasn’t affected our confidence in our abilities, if anything it has proved even more that we are a good side and we are improving all of the time.”