There is still plenty of rugby to be played before the start of Super League play-offs, but here in the sweltering summer heat it was hard not to feel like two of the competition’s burning issues were in play. way to be resolved.
Wakefield Trinity have flirted with relegation all season, but here, in the shadow of building work that will turn their crumbling but beloved Belle Vue home, they have taken an important step towards securing their status as premier plan.
Toulouse’s defeat at Warrington on Thursday night left the door ajar for Wakefield to open a four-point gap downstairs with four games remaining. They did so in a surprisingly stress-free manner and, given that Toulouse’s run-in involves games against three of the front four, the cards are now firmly stacked against the French side extending their time in the Super League for a second season. Wakefield, to their credit, deserved this win and the likely rewards that come with it.
It was also a decisive day at the summit. With St Helens beating Hull further down the M62, it means Wigan trail the defending champions by six points with four games remaining. The Warriors will now have to settle for second place at best, although they could still be caught by Huddersfield or the Catalans, and given that finishing in the top two means having the opening week of the playoffs free, the season of Wigan could still have a lot to do. on them.
They have been well beaten here and could have few complaints. Trinity handled the intense heat better, with a largely error-free first half, cutting the time they had to defend in the energy-hungry conditions. They took a deserved 18-6 lead at the break and from there never really looked back. “Every win is important but this one means a lot,” said coach Willie Poching. “We haven’t finished yet, there are four games left and we will have to deliver it again, I think.”
Wigan’s afternoon came down to the debauchery of their two most reliable attacking stars, Jai Field and Bevan French. As Field crossed for a try in the closing minutes, the outcome was decided by then. A 12-point halftime lead was always going to be telling given the conditions and the Warriors were unable to come back in contention against a Wakefield side who defended commendably throughout.
“It’s a missed opportunity to put some distance between us and the teams below us,” said their coach, Matt Peet. “Wakefield started the game better than us and handled it very well. We never put it together long enough. They were very good.”
Wakefield took the lead when fast right hands freed Lee Kershaw, who finished well in the corner. This lead was then extended when the exceptional Jacob Miller dispatched Jai Whitbread for their second down.
Errors in this round were always likely to be magnified, and when Sam Halsall’s attack gave Wakefield another chance to attack, they took full advantage when Miller passed two Wigan defenders superbly. Halsall redeemed himself when he completed a French break, but a Lino penalty extended the lead in the interval.
The first try after half-time always looked crucial and when Wakefield scored through Kelepi Tanginoa, the odds swung firmly in the hosts’ favour. Wigan huffed and huffed with little success thereafter and while Field’s consolation cut the deficit, it was fitting for Wakefield to complete the scoring when Lewis Murphy intercepted a pass from Field to run the length of the field and close to Trinity decisive way of Super League survival.