UpFront: Super League finally has a relegation battle

Worry for Wakefield Trinity, optimism for Toulouse Olympique.

There are nine rounds of Super League remaining, and it’s very much game on in the fight to avoid the drop.

Other teams could yet be drawn in, but at this stage, it’s looking like Wakefield or Toulouse.

Two weeks ago, second-bottom Trinity had a six-point buffer, but now that’s down to just two after basement team Toulouse came out on top against them in the opening game of Magic Weekend, winning 38-26.

It was a crucial win for the French side, who are showing real signs of progress under their long-serving coach Sylvain Houles, a former Wakefield player.

The 40-year-old, who took the reins in 2012, when the club were playing in the French domestic competition, deserves real credit, not just for leading the way through League One (via the 2016 play-offs) and the Championship (through last year’s Million Pound Game), but for dealing with the departure of key players Mark Kheirallah and Johnathon Ford shortly before this season began.

Toulouse, whose spirited second-half fightback, albeit aided by two Wakefield sinbinnings, helped clinch a fourth Super League win, and first outside France, will now seek further points from a run of three consecutive home games, against Leeds Rhinos, Salford Red Devils and Hull FC.

Over the same timespan, Trinity visit Hull KR and host St Helens before a derby at Castleford Tigers.

The damage done to Wakefield by their defeat against Toulouse was compounded by its manner, given Willie Poching’s side led 20-4 before the first of the yellow cards just before the half-time hooter.

Who knows the psychological impact of losing after being in such an advantageous position?

There’s an obvious irony that just as Trinity finally start work on redeveloping their ground to make sure it meets Super League requirements, there’s a real risk they could drop into the second tier for the first time since 1998.

Castleford, Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR and Salford have all bounced back after relegation, while Leigh Centurions are pushing for an immediate return after the misery of last season.

But the fear of the Trinity faithful is that their club might be more like Bradford Bulls, London Broncos and Widnes Vikings, who have struggled to acclimatise to life outside the sport’s elite.

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