Sheffield Eagles suffered Championship Shield final heartache for the second consecutive season after a 44-14 defeat at Toulouse.
Eagles found themselves 10 points in front after half-an-hour in the south of France thanks to more Garry Lo heroics, but the hosts responded to take the game away from Mark Aston’s side in the final quarter.
After upsetting the odds by beating Batley in the semi-finals, the Eagles couldn’t find a repeat performance, despite being in the game for long periods.
Aston included Mark Mexico in his squad after the club managed to solve his visa issues in the nick of time, but centre Perry Whiteley missed out through injury.
The Eagles, firm underdogs going into the game, shocked the home side by taking an early lead. Veteran centre Menzie Yere kicked into the corner and winger Lo latched onto the loose ball to ground. Jack Owens missed the extras.
Aston’s side were in the ascendancy but were given a scare when star man Lo looked set to leave the stage injured. After an uncomfortable spell, the Castleford-bound flyer ran through the pain barrier to intercept a pass and sprint 60 metres to cross the whitewash, with Owens converting for a 10 point lead.
Just before the 30 minute mark Toulouse got a foothold in the game through Mark Kheirallah’s try, but back came the Eagles to move further clear.
Try-machine Lo completed his hat-trick when Yere forced the error from the home side in goal, allowing his compatriot the easiest of tries. Owens missed the conversion.
With the interval approaching the Eagles let their supremacy slip at a crucial stage of the game. Ex-Eagle Stan Robin finished a move after good work in the build up from Johnathon Ford, with Kheirallah converting. Then on the stroke of half-time Gavin Marguerite’s converted try edged the hosts in front for the first time.
After the break the Eagles hit the self-destruct button again when Rhys Curran crossed after good work from Ford, and Paul Marcon put Toulouse firmly in the box seat after latching onto a kick over the top to score
The Eagles stayed in touch heading into the final quarter, but with 14 minutes remaining Toulouse all but sealed the contest when Curran played in Kheirallah to sprint to the line, before converting his own score.
Further tries from Anthony Marion, Constantine Mika and Tony Maurel added gloss to the scoreline.
Toulouse: Kheirallah; Maurel, Ader, Marguerite, Marcon; Robin, Ford; Boyer, Bouzinac, Canet; Mike, Curran; Marion. Interchange: Kriouache, Puech, Hepi, Bentley.
Scorers: Tries: Kheirallah (28, 66), Robin (35), Marguerite (40), Curran (43), Marcon (49), Marion (71), Mika (74), Maurel (80). Goals: Kheirallah 4/9
Eagles: Millar; Lo, Yere, Flynn, Blackmore; Brown, Owens; Wheeldon, Fozard, James; Johnson, Straugheir; Minchella. Interchange: Trout, Scott, Hope, Mexico.
Scorers: Tries: Lo (7, 21, 32) Goals: Owens 1/3