Rugby League talking points: Wakefield's transfer business, Salford's rise and plenty in reserve
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 12/08/19 11:49am
A busy transfer deadline for Wakefield, Salford's progress and details of the new reserve competition all feature in this week's talking points.
Wakefield look for signings boost
Few teams were as busy leading up to last Friday's transfer deadline as Wakefield Trinity, who brought in four new players to boost their squad in the bid to steer clear of the Super League relegation place.
Morgan Escare and Chris Green joined on loan from Wigan Warriors and Hull FC respectively, while Adam Tangata switched from Championship side Halifax in a swap deal with Keegan Hirst, and Ryan Atkins rejoined the club he made his name at from Warrington Wolves after nearly a decade away.
Full-back Escare and forward Tangata made their bows against Hull on Sunday, but could not help Trinity avoid a 26-16 defeat which means they remain hovering above bottom side London Broncos by two points.
Wakefield have now won just once in their last nine Super League games, which has seen them slide from looking like possible play-off contenders in May, and face a crucial clash against fellow strugglers Hull Kingston Rovers this Sunday.
"I think one win would be enough and the sooner we get that, the better for everybody," said Trinity head coach Chris Chester. "We've four cup finals coming up and Hull KR next week is really important."
Prop Green, who was ineligible to play against his parent club, and centre Atkins are both set to be available against Rovers, with all four new faces coming as a much-needed boost to a squad which has been ravaged by injury at times in 2019.
Salford's rise continues
At the other end of the table, Salford Red Devils moved into the top five on points difference from Castleford Tigers after avenging their previous loss to Huddersfield Giants on Sunday afternoon.
That 32-12 victory made it four wins on the spin for Ian Watson's side - a run which includes wins over two of the other sides fighting it out in the top five, Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves.
Head coach Watson, who has been recognised for his role in Salford's eye-catching performances this year by being named as one of Wayne Bennett's assistants for this winter's Great Britain tour, hailed the Red Devils players for continuing to defy the naysayers.
"We talked about getting ourselves into a good position after this weekend," Watson said. "It's in our own hands and now it's up to us now to keep it.
"The group of players we have here is outstanding and the boys have been a credit to the club all year. We need to nail that play-off spot and see what we can do."
A special mention for goal-kicking winger Krisnan Inu's role the win over Huddersfield too. He landed 20 points from his boot in a match where Salford had trailed 12-10 midway through the second half.
Leeds take big step towards safety
Even a red card in the second half for Brad Singleton could not derail Leeds Rhinos as they vanquished Catalans Dragons 48-8 at Headingley on Friday evening to inch closer to securing their Super League status.
The Rhinos had already been forced to play part of the match with 12 men following Konrad Hurrell being sent to the sin-bin and then lost prop Singleton 10 minutes into the second half for a high tackle.
But it was the Dragons who wilted as the Rhinos upped their game to secure a memorable win which put them four points clear of the bottom spot in Super League with four games of the regular season remaining.
Head coach Richard Agar is aware their status is not yet secure ahead of this Thursday's clash with League Leaders' Shield winners St Helens, which is live on Sky Sports, but believes his players have no doubts about finishing the job.
"It's one week at a time until it's mathematically impossible (to go down)," Agar said. "We've got some good sides to play but I think we're travelling alright.
"I don't think I'm dealing with a squad that is fearful of relegation, we're getting better every week."
Hull FC knocking at the Wolves' door
St Helens may have already secured top spot and the Shield, but just below them it is shaping up to go right to the wire as to which team secures second place and home advantage for the qualifying final in the play-offs.
Hull's win away to Wakefield saw them draw level on points with Warrington, who in turn slipped to a 30-12 defeat at home to Saints in the Challenge Cup final dress rehearsal on Sunday evening.
Those two are looking set to meet in round one of the play-offs - although Wigan are still snapping at their heels - so the question remains as to whether the game will be played at the KCOM Stadium or Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Some heavy defeats earlier in the season - including one at home to the Wolves - mean the Black and Whites are the only side in the top five with a minus points difference, something head coach Lee Radford knows could make a difference come the end of the regular season.
"We know we've got to finish two points above anybody we're level with because of our poor points difference," Radford said.
"But we're still in there, we're still swinging, nobody giving us a mention and I quite like that."
Thunder aim to strike in reserves competition
The line-up of the new reserve-grade competition was confirmed last week, with perhaps the most eye-catching inclusion being that of League One side Newcastle Thunder.
The Tyneside club, who share Kingston Park with rugby union side Newcastle Falcons, will join the 11 English Super League clubs, plus Championship sides Bradford Bulls, Widnes Vikings and Halifax in the 15-team division in 2020.
Thunder, currently sitting third in League One, hope the reserves will provide the perfect pathway for the players coming through the youth set-up at the club.
"The reserves are going to form an important part of how we develop not only the club, but a first-team playing squad that blends exciting, home-grown talents with some of the best English and overseas players," said general manager Jordan Robinson.
But spare a thought for Keighley Cougars, who have been long-time supporters of the current reserve system. Their application was rejected along with that of fellow League One side Whitehaven after both were deemed to have fallen short "in meeting some of the essential criteria", according to an RFL statement.
Interestingly, the introduction of the new reserve competition will not affect the dual-registration system, which itself has proven a divisive subject.