Huddersfield Giants v Wigan Warriors match report
HEROIC Huddersfield Giants produced their best defensive display in the Super League era to show the rest of the competition exactly why they’re top of the table.
Despite falling 10-0 behind after 11 worrying minutes and then being put under a barrage of pressure during a thrilling finale, coach Paul Anderson’s men held their nerve to enjoy one of their finest hours.
The 22-10 triumph may not have been as emphatic as their first two wins at St Helens and London Broncos.
But the manner of this success told everyone so much more about the Giants’ Class of 2013 and why they should be feared and respected as a Super League XVIII force.
In days gone by, Huddersfield may well have fallen apart after conceding two relatively ‘soft’ tries early on against the Warriors.
The ease at which Liam Farrell crashed over on his side’s first attack after nine minutes and the way in which the second-rower then charged through a big gap to set up Josh Charnley two minutes later didn’t bode well.
Yet rather than embark on a strategy of damage limitation, Anderson’s men simply rolled up their sleeves, dug deeper and set about finding ways to claw their way back.
Unfortunately, the coach’s plan of getting off to a good defensive start before unleashing strike weapons Shaun Lunt and Eorl Crabtree from the bench to do major damage only half worked. Obviously that was the latter part.
No-one could deny the introduction of Lunt and Crabtree swung the game the Giants’ way.
Yet, in the final analysis, there was so much more to this victory than the arrival of these highly-influential players.
They were just two of the key men in what was again an excellent team display in which all 17 played a significant role.
Captain Danny Brough as usual led by example, although on this occasion it was his strong first-half defensive stint that counted for so much.
By the end of the contest, however, the scrum-half’s statistics showed his value could be seen in the usual areas, with a five-out-of-five goalkicking return – including a couple from the touchline – standing out. In such a close game that made a huge difference.
But the defensive displays of others also deserve to be recognised, with one brave tryline tackle by Joe Wardle on big Greg Burke during those tense closing stages really catching the eye.
There were also some great backs-to-the-wall efforts from the likes of industrious full-back Scott Grix and Aaron Murphy, who made the most of getting the nod ahead of fellow winger Luke George with some crucial interventions.
But arguably the most important piece of defence on the day came from the Giants’ other winger, Jermaine McGillvary.
That came midway through the half and when Wigan were looking more than capable of building on their 10-point advantage.
Despite having been placed under incredible pressure by a pin-point bomb to the corner by Blake Green, McGillvary leapt above several Wigan attackers and saved the day.
Yet there was still more to come.
Within a minute, the Giants were on the offensive and the game was about to turn.
With virtually Lunt’s first touch of the game, he had created a blindside move for Leroy Cudjoe to feed McGillvary to charge 30m and barge through Charnley to score.
Brough added the conversion from the touchline and hope had been restored.
At 10-6 down at the interval, the Giants were finally in the ascendancy.
Within minutes of the restart, McGillvary’s break from deep almost levelled the scores.
But in the 48th minute, the hosts weren’t to be denied.
A jinking run took Luke Robinson to the line from where Lunt’s perfect short pass was taken at pace by Jamie Cording to charge through for his first try of the season.
Brough again goaled and the Giants were ahead for the first time.
Only amazing defensive efforts from both teams kept the scores close for the majority of a pulsating half, with two Brough penalties in the 55th and 73rd minutes managing to give his side some breathing space.
But with Wigan still just six points behind, they remained firmly in the hunt.
In the last 11 sets of the contest, the Giants managed just one play-the-ball as they desperately hung on and were guilty of conceding penalties in the process.
With 15 seconds remaining, the Warriors forced one final drop-out.
They desperately attempted to keep the ball alive as the hooter sounded, but the ball eventually came out to the outstanding Brett Ferres, who collected and raced 80m and just had the pace to beat Michael McIlorum to the corner.
Brough converted and one of the Giants’ best wins had been secured.