A FOUR-try blitz at the start of the second half dashed Barrow Raiders' hopes of sealing promotion back to the Kingstone Press Championship after they went down 32-22 away to Toulouse Olympique in the League One play-off final.

Eze Harper had got the Raiders off to a dream start with an unconverted try, although Toulouse eventually breached their stubborn defence when the visitors found themselves down to 11 men due to two quick yellow cards and led by two points at the break.

But Toulouse made their pressure count early on when play resumed to ultimately take the game beyond Barrow, despite a determined fightback in the final quarter which saw Paul Crarey's men fall just short.

Kick-off was put back half-an-hour due to Barrow's flight leaving Manchester Airport an hour later than scheduled, although that did not seem to affect the visitors too much as they took the lead after just six minutes.

It came following a penalty when some hard running by forwards Liam Harrison and Joe Bullock took the Raiders into the red zone, and then Ryan Fieldhouse produced the perfect cut-out pass to send winger Harper over in the corner for an unconverted try.

Harper went close to adding to his tally soon after, only for the difficult pass to slip from his clutches under pressure from the defence as he dived for the line.

The away side were defending manfully too and after interchange man Anthony Bate was penalised for throwing a punch which led to a brief scuffle, Toulouse were able to ratchet up the pressure with a long spell of possession.

But try as they might, the home side found themselves unable to find a way through as Barrow's players threw everything into tackling with little regard for their own personal safety.

However, the pressure was starting to tell and the Raiders had Dan Toal and Ryan Fieldhouse sin-binned in quick succession following two team warnings.

The numerical advantage told in the final two minutes before the break when Tony Maurel broke from just inside his own half and darted through the defence to score behind the posts, giving Mark Kheirallah a simple conversion.

It took another eight minutes after the restart for Toulouse to breach the defence again, with Gavin Marguerite finishing off following swift passing from Maurel and Kheirallah – who added the extras once more – to stretch the defence.

That signalled the start of a 15-minute onslaught which saw the League One table toppers run in a further three tries, with skipper Sebastien Planas finishing off following two quick offloads and then Kuni Minga acrobatically diving over in the corner after Curran had been halted just short.

Then an opportunist piece of play from Kheirallah, catching the defence off-guard with a tap from a 20-metre restart and racing the length of the field to score under the posts, looked to have put the seal on the game for Toulouse with 20 minutes left.

However, Barrow mounted a fightback and when Chris Fleming's try with 11 minutes left was followed two minutes later by Fieldhouse stretching out to score as Toulouse tried to drag him down – with Chris Hankinson converting both – hopes were briefly raised of an unlikely comeback.

Time was against the away side though and Kheirallah slotted a penalty to settle a few jangling nerves.

Fleming did managed to get over for a second late on and even though Hankinson added the two, there was not enough time to go again as the French side saw out the match to seal promotion.

Toulouse Olympique: Kheirallah; Maurel, Marguerite, White, Minga; Ford, Hulme; Boyer, Bentley, Canet, Planas, Curran, Marion. Interchange: Kriouache, Masselot, Hepi, Mika.

Barrow Raiders: Fieldhouse; Harper, Pitman, Wiper, Fleming; Hankinson, Dallimore; Bullock, Ashall, Wilkes, Harrison, Morrow, Aspinwall. Interchange: Mossop, Toal, Dawson, Bate.