French Rugby League round-up: Returning James Maloney guides Lézignan into semi-finals

Ex-Catalans Dragons star James Maloney, who landed nine goals from nine attempts, guided Lézignan into a championship semi-final clash at Carcassonne after the FCL crushed Avignon 46-12.

After a month’s suspension, Maloney was cleared to play by the Anti-Doping Agency, who appear to have accepted that the Aussie half-back’s positive test in February did not result from a wish to enhance performance.

It took the FCL 20 minutes to take a grip on this play-off match against sixth-placed Avignon, as Jean-Baptiste Bousquet, Cyril Stacul, in his last home match, and Valentin Ferret all crossed for an 18-0 half-time lead.

They carried on in similar fashion after the interval, putting Avignon under near-constant pressure, which brought a try for Jordan Flovie and a superb combined effort by ever-influential Rémy Marginet and Bousquet for young centre Arthur Salles to go over.

Avignon came back briefly with the first of two tries by Fijian forward Pio Seci before it was Salles’s turn to put Bousquet through to score. Two penalties from Maloney and Bousquet’s hat-trick try confirmed the FCL’s superiority.

St Estève-XIII Catalan will meet league leaders Limoux in the other semi after beating Albi 28-24 in a golden point finish. Fourth-placed Albi, on home turf, had only themselves to blame for throwing away a 24-12 lead going into the last ten minutes.

Building on earlier tries by Julien Cancé, Nittim Pedrero and Cédric Mazars, the latter from Brad Wall’s smart break, Albi went 12 points ahead after Pedrero raced 50 metres and passed inside for Wall to touch down. For the Catalans, Romain Franco and Florian Vailhen had scored tries.

But in the final ten minutes, Albi half-back Baptiste Fabre had the ball ripped by Hugo Salabio, setting up a try for Mathieu Cozza, and, in a familiar move, Corentin Le Cam took César Rougé’s high kick to place the ball over the line, Paul Marty converting both to take the game into extra time.

Six minutes in, Cancé failed to hold Jack Cook’s wild pass and Catalan winger Corentin Rey went away to score the winner.

Championship play-offs
Albi 24 St Estève-XIII Catalan 28
Lézignan 46 Avignon 12

Saturday 7 & Sunday 8 May
Carcassonne v Lézignan
Limoux v St Estève-XIII Catalan
Dates and times tba

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