Wakefield slumped to a sixth successive defeat when they were embarrassed at home by Catalans Dragons last night.
The West Yorkshire side, who won their opening two First Utility Super League matches, are bottom of the table and though it is still tight, on this evidence there is very little chance of them pulling clear.
Teams finishing from ninth to 12th in Super League after 23 rounds will go into the Qualifiers, a series also involving the Championship’s top-quartet, with the leading four at the end of that playing in the top flight next year.
Judging by the way they ran up the white flag once Catalans had got a grip of the game, Wakefield’s players are resigned to that and a tense end to the campaign.
Ironically, Wakefield’s only try came after the hooter had sounded, Chris Riley crossing from Ali Lauitiiti’s offload on the final play. Until then they had seemed destined for a shut-out, against visitors who were without a win in four games, during which they had conceded 161 points.
Catalans went into the fixture low on confidence, but were allowed to play their way back into form. They were lively on attack and defended strongly, though Wakefield threw very little at them, despite the return from injury of playmaker Tim Smith and captain Danny Kirmond.
Wakefield made a reasonably positive start. They gained some good ground in the opening stages, but couldn’t complete their sets when they got close to the visitors’ line.
A try then might have made it a different story, but once the French team enjoyed some possession and territory they played quick, smart rugby and Wakefield had no answer.
Damien Cardace and Elliott Whitehead both knocked-on with the line open, from a pass and then kick by Scott Dureau, before Benjamin Garcia broke the deadlock after 16 minutes.
Wakefield managed to halt a searing break by Mathias Pala, but on the next play the prop barged over from Thomas Bosc’s pass.
Soon afterwards Willie Tonga finished strongly at the corner after Dureau, Bosc and Zeb Taia had handled and then Wakefield lost possession near their own line to gift a simple try to Ben Pomeroy.
Dureau landed his third conversion and then added a penalty goal.
But the next few minutes illustrated why Wakefield are destined for a relegation battle and Catalans don’t have the look of genuine title contenders, at least without their star Australian stand-off Todd Carney.
Olivier Elima, a former Wakefield player, lost possession from the re-start and Wakefield could have got off the mark had Craig Hall come up with a better pass to Joe Arundel, who knocked on close to the line.
Catalans immediately turned the ball back and then conceded three successive penalties, but Wakefield could not take advantage and the siege was lifted when Dureau, who had a commanding game, got down low to take Paul McShane’s grubber kick.
Having survived considerable pressure, Catalans moved even further ahead on the stroke of half-time when Whitehead powered over after neat play by Dureau and Pomeroy, although he was helped by a slip from Jacob Miller.
Wakefield looked lively in the opening stages of the second half, until Dureau’s kick created a try for Cardace, the No 7 landing his sixth goal.
That was the first of a genuine hat-trick as the winger went over for Catalans’ sixth and seventh tries.
Dureau couldn’t convert the final two and hurt himself taking his last kick, immediately limping off.
Riley’s try at least prevented Wakefield being nilled, but with Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves to play next, there are no signs of their season getting easier.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Hall, Riley, Collis, Arundel, Owen, Miller, T Smith, Scruton, McShane, Griffin, Kirmond, Washbrook. Simon. Substitutes: Ryan, Lauitiiti, D Smith, Trout.
Catalans Dragons: Robin, Cardace, Pomeroy, Tonga, Pala, Bosc, Dureau, Garcia, Henderson, Casty, Taia, Whitehead, Baitieri. Substitutes: Elima, Mounis, Pelissier, Bousquet.
Referee: George Stokes (Wigan).