At half-time at St James’ Park Toulouse Olympique XIII looked dead in the water.
Behind 20-4 right before half-time, they had been outplayed and dominated by Wakefield Trinity on sunny Tyneside. Four points behind Wakefield on the ladder, they had headed into Magic Weekend knowing they had to win.
Nothing but victory would suffice. Lose, and their Super League status was as good as gone.
The first 39 minutes was all Wakefield. A smart try by Liam Hood, some solid returns by Max Jowitt, and a controlled display by the Trinity pack. Willie Poching’s plan was seemingly working to perfection as his side played with no fear and little stress.
But a sin-binning to David Fifita right before the interval completely turned the game on its head and Toulouse took full advantage.
The French side ran in three tries in six minutes with Fifita off the field, then added another two after Rob Butler was yellow carded for a dangerous throw.
Trinity, struggling to keep their defence intact, wilted in the hot sun and Toulouse rode the momentum all the way to a famous comeback victory.
“I’m disappointed we threw such an advantageous situation that was the first half,” Wakefield coach Willie Poching admitted.
What it means ❤️
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) July 9, 2022
“We were in so much control. Discipline hurt us today.
“Losing two players and playing with 12 men for 20 minutes was crucial. We need to manage those situations better.”
After defeating Hull KR last weekend, Toulouse’s season has really come alive. Relegation is no longer a foregone conclusion.
With nine games now left they sit just two points below Wakefield, and only four points below Warrington.
Back-to-back victories has breathed life into their difficult campaign.
Toulouse have a series of games at home to look forward to over the next month.
On their own turf, in the warm French conditions, their future is in their own hands.
Victory in their next few games would heap more pressure on Poching’s charges.
“The sin-binning to Wakefield gave us life, but it depended on what we did with it,” a relieved Sylvain Houles said after the match.
“And the boys did really well with it. We knew it was do-or-die for us.
“In the second half we took the pressure and stress away.
“For us it is about the journey, about trusting the process. The last two games were huge, we needed them to stay alive in Super League.”
For another few weeks, at the very least, the French dream is still alive.