HUDDERSFIELD Giants shook off the rustiness to eventually produce an emphatic 36-12 home pre-season triumph over Super League rivals Widnes Vikings.
In the opening quarter, head coach Paul Anderson’s men looked disjointed and uneasy against their eager visitors.
But as the game wore on and the Giants warmed to their task, there were clear glimpses that Huddersfield could again be a major Super League force in 2013.
It was almost inevitable they would struggle to get into their stride early on, with this their only serious senior hit-out ahead of the Super League XVIII opener at St Helens on Saturday, February 2.
They did, of course, travel to Saints nine days before, but with so many youngsters in action that night it was never going to be a true test.
But with Anderson naming his strongest available 20-man squad for the John Smith’s Stadium clash, it was always going to be a different story.
And, in the final analysis, it had a happy ending, with the Giants turning on the heat in the second half to turn a 12-6 interval deficit into a healthy 36-12 victory, thanks in no small part to a hat-trick from Shaun Lunt.
Widnes also fielded their best possible line-up, which unfortunately didn't include former Giants captain Kevin Brown, who is still waiting to make his Vikings debut following winter ankle surgery.
Both sides showed some good early touches, with the hosts forced to drop-out from under their own posts after three minutes.
The Giants were then rocked three minutes later when Michael Lawrence picked up a knock to his left ankle which forced his early retirement and the Vikings took immediate advantage by taking the lead as the switch was being made as Danny Craven grubber-kicked through to touch down and add the conversion.
Three minutes later the visitors doubled the lead when Joe Mellor stepped through a static defence with ease to score under the posts, with Rhys Hanbury this time landing the goal.
A second Huddersfield drop-out made sure Widnes remained on the front foot during a very worrying opening spell.
But the mood changed midway through the half when Lunt darted over from acting half-back after Eorl Crabtree had been held up on the line. Danny Brough converted and it was 12-6.
With Craig Kopczak again looking good after entering the fray as a substitute, Huddersfield began to become more of a threat, and Lunt was close to adding a second in the 26th minute, but lost possession attempting to plant the ball down.
Good Widnes defence then forced Luke George over at the corner following a sweeping move.
But with the home side unable to find a breakthrough, Widnes took a deserved 12-6 lead into the interval.
That advantage, however, had been lost by the 52nd minute when Dale Ferguson broke clear from deep and showed good pace before finding Scott Grix, who in turn released Leroy Cudjoe to finish off.
Brough had initially set the wheels in the motion for the move and had little trouble converting.
The Giants skipper then added a third minutes later after Cudjoe had followed up a strong charge from Jermaine McGillvary to score his second in lightning succession.
Converted try No4 followed in the 58th minute when Joe Wardle picked up a loose ball on halfway and showed great pace to beat the cover and touch down to make it 24-12.
The advantage was up to 16 points with 15 minutes remaining when Lunt plunged over for a second close-range score from acting half-back, and the game was well and truly over as a contest.
To their credit, Widnes refused to wave the white flag and forced a third home drop-out in the 71st minute.
But within two minutes Huddersfield had found the perfect response as Lunt charged through the heart of the defence from 30m to complete his hat-trick and earn the man-of-the-match award in the process.
It was also the perfect way for the hooker to mark his return to the club following his Grand Final-winning loan spell at Leeds Rhinos.
Brough again goaled to make it 36-12, and – eventually – a convincing victory had been achieved.