Batley Bulldogs 40 - 12 Huddersfield Giants
HUDDERSFIELD Giants’ rising stars are making a habit of giving illustrious opponents a run for their money in their traditional pre-season festive fixture.
For several years, the Super League club’s second string have travelled to face a strong Halifax squad and given their hosts a genuine run for their money before fading late in the contest to deny them an against-all-odds triumph.
And at the weekend it was the turn of a strong Batley Bulldogs side to experience a somewhat uncomfortable encounter against Huddersfield’s youngsters before eventually taking the honours 40-12.
On paper, that may appear a fairly emphatic final scoreline.
But it was clear that at the end of the 80 minutes Giants assistant coach Paul Anderson – who was in charge of the team for the day – was far more satisfied with what he had seen than his opposite number at Batley, head coach Karl Harrison.
While the Bulldogs fielded their full-strength Championship squad – apart from Giants trio Alex Brown, Josh Griffin and Kyle Wood who are moving to Mount Pleasant on season-long loans – Huddersfield fielded an entire Reserve side, with 19-year-old former Whitehaven scrum half Gregg McNally the most experienced player in the claret and gold.
And that inexperience was at its most apparent in the opening exchanges when the Giants looked completely overwhelmed against a far stronger and more polished Batley side.
As a result, the home side were ahead after just three minutes when a clinical Gareth Moore break sent Danny Maun charging over the line for Moore to convert.
Several other Batley raids almost brought further reward during a completely one-sided opening, and there were real fears the young Giants may be in for the most torrid 80 minutes of their lives.
But once they had weathered that early storm and got to grips with playing against such battle-hardened and experienced opponents, the visitors began to settle to the task.
With hooker Joe Parkinson a real handful and the likes of fellow forwards Jacob Fairbank, Keiron Murphy and new signing Jamie Cording warming to the cause, the tide began to turn.
Playing down the infamous Mount Pleasant slope, the Giants began to exert some genuine pressure, and midway through the half they were back on level terms.
Fine defensive play made it all possible, with four Giants forcing Batley full-back Ian Preece into touch 10m from his own line.
From the resulting scrum, the youngsters took the ball to the line for McNally to dummy and fed the supporting Murphy to crash over.
McNally made no mistake with the conversion and doubled his tally 10 minutes later as the Giants shot onto a dream lead for the first time.