Israel Folau: Catalans Dragons 36-18 Castleford – Australian scores on Super League debut
Israel Folau scored six minutes into his Super League debut as Catalans Dragons ended Castleford’s 100% start.
The ex-rugby union international was sacked by Rugby Australia in May for posting homophobic comments on social media but joined Catalans last month.
In his first league game in 10 years, Folau’s try came after catching a high kick and was cheered by the home crowd.
Leading 20-12 at the break the French side impressed in the second half, with Sam Tomkins completing a hat-trick.
It was a first victory of the season for Steve McNamara’s team, who were beaten in the opening round by Huddersfield and had their game at Wakefield called off last weekend.
Catalans raced into a 12-0 lead through a solo Tomkins score and Folau’s try, which saw him leap highest to take an up-and-under before diving over the line.
Derrell Olpherts ran 80 yards to get Castleford on the scoreboard, with Catalans’ Samisoni Langi and the visitors’ Cheyse Blair trading scores before the break.
Tomkins and Fouad Yaha scored either side of Olpherts being sin-binned for Castleford for blocking star man Tomkins, which put the result beyond doubt.
Former Wigan man and England international Tomkins fittingly had the last say, dodging inside, evading several tackles and touching down.
Folau wins over French faithful
Catalans’ signing of Folau was met with widespread criticism within rugby league and, at a board meeting earlier this month, Super League voted unanimously to have “greater authority” to stop future “controversial signings”.
He was sacked by Rugby Australia for saying on social media that “Hell awaits” gay people, having previously been warned over his posts, and later reached a settlement after suing the governing body for alleged religious discrimination.
Yet while he is likely to receive frosty receptions away from the Stade Gilbert Brutus, his try was greeted with a roar and chanting of his name by the home crowd.
On the pitch Catalans regularly kicked high in Folau’s direction in attack and the Australian was stopped a yard short of a second try before the interval.
In his first rugby league match since leaving NRL side Brisbane Broncos for a stint playing Australian rules football in 2010, Folau lasted the full 80 minutes but his impact faded in the second half.
A crowd of 8,886 was not a marked increase on Catalans’ average crowd, with Folau set to play in England for the Dragons for the first time when the French side go to Hull FC on 1 March.
Catalans Dragons: S Tomkins, Tierney, Langi, Folau, Yaha, Maloney, Drinkwater, Casty, McIlorum, Bousquet, Whitley, J Tomkins, Garcia.
Interchanges: Jullien, Maria, Baitieri, Kasiano.
Castleford Tigers: Rankin, Olpherts, Blair, Shenton, Clare, Trueman, Richardson, Watts, McShane, Griffin, Holmes, Millington, Massey.
Interchanges: McMeeken, Smith, O’Neill, Hepi.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (RFL)