Huddersfield Giants v Leeds Rhinos Super League match report
HEROIC 12-man Huddersfield produced one of their best displays of the season to secure their first League double over Leeds in over half a century.
The wretched performance at Warrington just seven days before already seems a distant memory after such a dominant eight-try triumph over the reigning World Club champions.
To beat the Rhinos 48-24 is impressive at the best of time.
But to achieve such a scoreline when playing for 65 minutes with just 12 men makes it all the more remarkable.
When Luke O’Donnell was so controversially given his marching orders for alleged illegal use of the elbow on Ian Kirke in the 15th minute, it looked as if it would be curtains for the unfortunate hosts.
True, the Giants had started strongly and thoroughly deserved to be 10-0 ahead before O’Donnell saw red.
But surely it would only be a matter of time before the Super League champions would make their numerical advantage count, wouldn’t it?
The sending-off simply galvanised the Giants, who continued to dominate and maintained the level of form that had taken them to the top of the table after the first third of the season.
Since then, it’s largely been a tale of woe, but the green shoots of recovery couldn’t be appearing at a better time.
If Huddersfield play like this in their opening play-off fixture at Hull on Sunday, then there’s no reason at all why more progress in the knockout competition can’t be made.
Not only was this the best Giants’ display in months, it was also achieved by the strongest squad for quite some time as well.
There was almost a completely different look to the side that had been thrashed 54-6 at Warrington.
Back in the side after illness were Danny Brough and Luke George, while David Faiumu (finger), Jermaine McGillvary (ankle) and O’Donnell (hamstring) returned to action following injury.
There was also a game for back-row forward Dale Ferguson, whose recent form had restricted his senior appearances.
And the opening signs were highly encouraging as Huddersfield took the lead after just three minutes.
First, a strong run by O’Donnell took him to the line, and from the next play Brough’s short ball sent Leroy Cudjoe through a huge gap. Brough converted and the Giants had made the perfect start.
It got even better four minutes later when Brough created try No2, albeit on the back of some outstanding approach play.
Having taken the play to the line on tackle five,. the ball was worked to the new skipper to loft a precision high kick to the corner for George to collect and touch down, although too far out for Brough to add the extras.
A Brough 40-20 kick from the re-start put the Giants straight back on the attack, bot on this occasion the Rhinos’ defence held firm.
Although Leeds responded well to the pressure by mounting an attack of their own, that was ended abruptly when a clash between O’Donnell and Ian Kirke resulted in the Leeds attacker being stretchered off the field after receiving 10 minutes on-field treatment.
During that break in play, O’Donnell was substituted by Larne Patrick, and was then called back to be shown the red card – even though no action was initially going to be taken!
It’s something no-one had ever seen before.
Yet rather than knocking the Giants out of their stride they kept their nerve and extended their lead in the 28th minute when Brough’s kick to the corner was collected by McGillvary who kept the ball alive before finding Michael Lawrence to charge through some heavy traffic and just manage to stretch out to score.
Brough landed the conversion to make it 1,000 goals in his professional career.
Leeds finally struck for the first time in the 34th minute when they made their numerical advantage count by creating the overlap for Jimmy Keinhorst to stroll over with ease to make it 16-4.
But a minute before the break, the Giants extended their lead when the alert Brough read Carl Ablett’s offload to perfection to collect the ball and race 30m to score under the posts and add the conversion to give the hosts an 18-point interval advantage.
The Giants appeared to have been handed a bit of a let-off when Ryan Hall looked to have scored in the corner but was adjudged to have knocked-on within two minutes of the restart.
But that wasn’t going to worry the men in claret and gold as they almost immediately went upfield and were awarded a penalty from which Brough duly converted.
He then followed it up with a second six minutes later to nudge his side 22 points ahead.
That advantage was extended to 28 in the 57th minute when a barnstorming Brett Ferres split the Leeds defence wide open and fed the supporting Luke Robinson to finish off.
Leeds reduced the deficit on the hour mark when Rob Burrow’s long pass out wide bounced on the ground before Hall picked up and scored with ease for Sinfield to land the touchline conversion.
Yet almost inevitably given the nature of the afternoon’s events it was no real surprise the Giants found the perfect response, adding their sixth try with 13 minutes remaining.
And almost inevitably Brough played a leading role. grubber-kicking through heavy traffic for Scott Grix to collect and score. Brough’s goal made it 38-10.
The 40-point mark was then brought up three minutes later when Grix this time dabbed the ball though and flicked back his own kick for Robinson to collect and score another converted try.
The Giants, however, were far from finished and made it 48-10 two minutes later when the ball was kept alive superbly and eventually found its way to Lawrence to feed Cudjoe for another easy try.
It was disappointing to see Leeds cross for three late tries through Kallum Watkins, Ablett and Jamie Peacock.
That could, to some extent, be down to fatigue at having to play for 65 minutes with 12 men.
But it still couldn’t disguise the fact this was a great way for the Giants top finish their home campaign – and put them in great shape for the start of the play-offs.