For Sylvain Houles, last Friday’s 30-6 defeat at home to Hull FC was a variation of what is becoming an unfortunate recurring theme for Toulouse Olympique.
For the second week in a row, the hosts took the lead in the Betfred Super League match, only for lapse defending and poor discipline to prove costly and send them back to the bottom of the table.
Having briefly hauled themselves out of the relegation place on the back of three straight wins, including overcoming fellow strugglers Wakefield Trinity in a Magic Weekend thriller, Toulouse are now two points adrift with six games of the regular season remaining.
Hull K R vs Toulouse
August 4, 2022, 7:30pm
Up next for the French outfit is a trip to the other Hull club, Kingston Rovers, on Thursday evening live on Sky Sports and head coach Houles knows his side cannot afford any more slips in their bid to stay in Super League.
“Our indiscipline has cost us again, with and without the ball,” Houles said ruefully following last Friday’s defeat to Hull FC.
“We didn’t start bad but after that we just caved in too often and we did the same against Salford in the second half last week.
“There are things that we should be able to control and do better and we just haven’t done this in the last two weeks.
“We’re doing a lot of talking at the moment, but I want to see some action and it is crucial that we do this at Hull KR.”
Rewind to last October though, and this is not how Toulouse would have envisaged things. Houles’ side had just secured a long-sought promotion via the Million Pound Game, having gone through the regular season and play-offs unbeaten.
Even accounting for the pre-season departure of influential duo Johnathon Ford and Mark Khierallah, though, Toulouse’s struggles in 2022 are far from unusual for a promoted team.
Indeed, even through the various eras of licencing, the Qualifiers and the two eras of automatic promotion and relegation, only two teams – Salford in 1997 and Widnes Vikings in 2002 – promoted from the second tier have won at least half of their games and finished higher than ninth.
How promoted teams have fared in Super League
|Season||Team||Final position||W||D||L||Win %|
|2020||Toronto (record expunged)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Danny Ward, the former head coach of London Broncos, knows as well as anyone just how difficult staying in Super League can be for a promoted team as his side – one of only five to win 10 or more games following promotion in the competition’s history – went down on points difference in 2019.
Appearing as guest pundit for last Friday’s live game between Castleford Tigers and Wakefield, Ward – now coaching in rugby union with Rosslyn Park – explained what it was like for the Broncos during that year.
“For me, you can’t look too far ahead at this stage of the season,” Ward told Sky Sports. “Everything is a cup final and when I was at London, we looked at all of those last seven or eight games as every one being a must-win, not looking two weeks down the track or who we had at home.
“We maybe picked our games at the start of the year and going to St Helens or Warrington we might have rested a few knowing we had a more winnable one the next week.
“But come that business end we were going in saying ‘this is cup final time’ every week – but it didn’t work, so what do I know!”
Like the Broncos did that year, Toulouse have pulled off some eye-catching results including a win at home to reigning champions St Helens – who they face an onerous trip to on the final day of the regular season.
But, at the same time, the Olympians have won just five of their 21 matches so far and Ward underlined how tough finding that week-to-week consistency is.
“It’s very tough because to peak every week for that long period of time is hard, Ward said. “The best players can do it and the best teams can do it, that’s why they’re winning silverware every year.
“It’s about peaking and being able to keep that consistency, playing at the top of your game in those big games.
“I’m not saying that seven or eight weeks [at the end of 2019] was fantastic; we had blips in there, but we went and picked up some wins though that mentality and it was something the blokes bought into. We got some good results in there, but just not enough.”
This week, Toulouse face a Hull KR side which has been hit hard by injuries, although they do have Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Matty Storton, Frankie Halton and Jimmy Keinhorst available following last week’s 46-4 defeat at Wigan Warriors.
Houles, who has prop Daniel Alvaro back in contention, believes worrying too much about what their opponents are doing is how they have come unstuck recently.
“In the last two games we have panicked at times, and we cannot afford to do it,” Houles said. “We have to deal with what we can control.
“We can’t think too much about Hull KR and how many players they have out because Hull FC were under-strength and we probably focused too much on that and not our own game.”
Hull Kingston Rovers: Ben Crooks, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Matt Parcell, George King, Matty Storton, Jez Litten, Korbin Sims, Elliot Mincella, Jimmy Keinhorst, Rowan Milnes, Will Maher, Ethan Ryan, Sam Wood, Greg Richards, Frankie Halton, Will Tate, Phoenix Laulu-Togaga’e, Zach Fishwick, Harvey Moore, Connor Barley.
Toulouse Olympique: Latrell Schaumkel, Mathieu Jussaume, Paul Marcon, Corey Norman, Lucas Albert, Romain Navarrete, Harrison Hansen, Dominique Peyroux, Anthony Marion, Eloi Pelissier, Maxime Puech, Joe Bretherton, James Cunningham, Chris Hankinson, Justin Sangare, Matty Russell, Olly Ashall-Bott, Nathan Peats, Lambert Belmas, Tony Gigot, Daniel Alvaro.
Watch Hull Kingston Rovers and Toulouse Olympique kick off Round 22 of the Betfred Super League regular season at Sewell Ground Craven Park live on Sky Sports Action from 7.30pm on Thursday (8pm kick-off).