COULD this finally be the Giants’ year?
Or will the stunning 40-4 Super League XVIII opening-night triumph at St Helens prove to be another false dawn?
Two seasons ago, Huddersfield powered to a superb round-one victory over Warrington Wolves in Cardiff and followed that up with an against-all-odds success at Wigan Warriors 12 months later.
Those results sent shockwaves throughout the competition, with the Giants going on to be a leading Super League force for the first half of the campaign – until the wheels came hurtling off in spectacular style.
So will it be any different this time around?
Clearly, that’s the question on everyone’s lips.
But judging by the events of Saturday night – yes, it does feel different.
For starters, Huddersfield won at St Helens for the first time since 1978 – which means they’ve now beaten every side in Super League home and away.That in itself is a pretty explosive statement of intent.
Yet that is merely the opening shot.
All the talk throughout pre-season of the Giants being more physical and powerful than ever before has already been shown to be the case. Just ask the battered, bruised and out-muscled Saints pack.
In Craig Kopczak and Stuart Fielden, Huddersfield have added two quality props who in one competitive encounter have shown what tremendous assets they’re going to be.
On top of that, the aggressive former New Zealand Warriors back-row forward Ukuma Ta’ai won’t be here until later this week, while the likes of fellow packmen Dale Ferguson, Jacob Fairbank and Anthony Mullally are waiting in the wings, and Michael Lawrence will be sidelined for two more months with his ankle injury.
So pack depth as well as pack strength is there as well.
And what an opening show of strength it was the other night!
With a set of forwards capable of being so dominant, half-backs Danny Brough and Luke Robinson and hooker Shaun Lunt had a field day.
In turn, they were able to provide the ammunition out wide for a set of three-quarters looking leaner, meaner and stronger than ever before.
To be honest, seeing the backs coming away from their own line, it was like watching an extra set of forwards punching holes through what was an overworked and beaten defence.
And talking about defence, wasn’t that outstanding from the Giants, too.
Saints had never been ‘nilled’ at home during the Super League era, and that would have been the case had Mark Flanagan not charged over with five minutes remaining – from a forward pass!
That, of course, was the merest of consolations for the outclassed hosts, who conceded two tries in the opening 10 minutes and never looked like being a threat.
Fit-again winger Jermaine McGillvary produced a devastating finish after Luke O’Donnell had pounced on the first of a series of handling errors from debutant Willie Manu 30m from his own line.
Brough then put impressive Brett Ferres through a yawning gap in the St Helens defence for a second try and kicked both conversions to make it 12-0.
Brough extended his side’s lead with a couple of penalties and struck the woodwork with another attempt, while England centre Leroy Cudjoe added a third try eight minutes before the break after a scintillating handling move.
Brough initiated the move with an offload in the middle of the field but the decisive moment came with a superb tip-on by full-back Scott Grix which created the space out wide.
Already 22-0 up at the break, there was no way back for Saints when winger Luke George gratefully accepted Brough’s long pass to cross unopposed for Huddersfield’s fourth try five minutes into the second half.
Brough went off shortly afterwards after picking up a slight knock – there was no point risking him with the game already won – but his side were firmly in control by then.
Former Giants coach Nathan Brown responded to the crisis by sending on former New Zealand international Lance Hohaia at stand-off, but one of his first acts was to gift the next try to Huddersfield substitute Larne Patrick.
Second-rower Jason Chan broke through the Saints line and, after he had kicked ahead, Hohaia tried to palm the ball dead only to watch it drop into the hands of Patrick.
Grix added the goal and it got even better for the visitors when Lunt scored a sixth try straight from the base of a scrum 20m out.
Cudjoe then scored his second try after St Helens stalwart Francis Meli lost the ball in a Robinson tackle 20m out from his own line, and at 40-0 the Giants were in dreamland.
Will that be the case again come the end of the season?
That’s obviously impossible to tell. But all the signs look very promising indeed.