Israel Folau makes statement on and off the pitch as Catalans beat Castleford
Israel Folau was once more the talk of Headingley but this time for his prowess as a world-class player as he helped Catalans Dragons come from 14-0 down to earn a 40-14 victory over Castleford in the Betfred Super League.
The dual-code international showed his athleticism to score one individual try and create two more in a man-of-the-match performance as the French club bounced back in style from their 34-6 hammering by St Helens, scoring 40 unanswered points after they making an awful start.
Folau declined to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement for the second successive week and this time he was joined by two of his Catalans Dragons team-mates, Benjamin Jullien and Sam Moa.
Catalans coach Steve McNamara said after last Sunday’s game that the players were free to make a personal choice on the matter and, as a devout Christian, Folau is thought to have taken the view that he will bow only to his God.
Folau, who was sacked from his Rugby Australia contract in 2019 for quoting a biblical verse saying “hell awaits” drunks, homosexuals, adulterers and other categories of sinners, then endured a difficult start to the match as his opposite number, Michael Shenton, raced in for two tries inside the first 10 minutes.
The Castleford captain opened the scoring after winning the race to Jake Trueman’s grubber kick on the last tackle and then took full-back Greg Eden’s pass to grab his second.
Danny Richardson kicked both conversions, adding a penalty on 14 minutes to make it 14-0, and the Dragons were staring at another crushing defeat.
However, Folau stopped the rot when he unleashed winger Tom Davies on 22 minutes for his first try for the club before the Catalans took full advantage of the sin-binning of Castleford centre Peter Mata’utia for a dangerous tackle on Sami Langi.
Replacement hooker Alrix Da Costa squeezed over from dummy half for his side’s second try and the Yorkshiremen were still down to 12 men when Folau broke clean through their first line of defence in spectacular fashion before handing off Eden to score a solo try.
James Maloney kicked his second conversion to edge the Dragons into a 16-14 interval lead and they extended it in fortuitous fashion four minutes into the second half.
Tigers winger Derrell Olpherts safely gathered the ball from Garcia’s kick on the last but inexplicably tried to pass it behind his own line and when the ball went to ground, Garcia was gifted a try.
It was a score that summed up the Tigers’ hapless display as they squandered the chance to go top of the table.
Folau, who scored a try on his Super League debut in a 36-18 win over Castleford in February, showed his class again on 62 minutes when he rose high to bring down Josh Drinkwater’s high kick and offloaded from the subsequent tackle to get second rower Joel Tomkins over for a try.
It was all Catalans by now and Davies went over for his second try and substitute Jason Baitieri also got in on the scoring act as Castleford wilted in the sun.