IT was always going to be a tough assignment for the Huddersfield Giants.
A clash between a virtual full-strength Batley Bulldogs side and a mix of players from Huddersfield’s Under 18s and Under 20s clearly had the potential to be an embarrassingly one-side affair.
It could justifiably be described as ‘men versus boys’, with an experienced and highly-rated Co-operative Championship line-up going head-to-head against a team of teenagers who at this stage can only dream of stepping foot onto a Super League stage.
Yet at the end of a heart-warming 80 minutes, the young Giants were able to walk off the Mount Pleasant field with heads held high and proving that one day that Super League dream really could become a reality.
Obviously, a final scoreline of 44-10 suggests the rising stars did take a bit of a battering.
But that clearly didn’t tell the full story.
Yes, there were times when they were dominated physically, although at others they were happy going toe-to-toe with their hosts, forcing them on the back foot on a number of occasions.
And, skill-wise, the Giants youngsters more than held their own, with the left-side wing-centre partnership of Joel Farrell and Freddie Walker proving a real handful all game.
In fact, that was obvious straight from the start as the pair combined for the opening try after 10 minutes.
Despite facing the infamous Mount slope and strong wind in the opening period, the Giants held off an initial Bulldogs onslaught before hitting the front with their first attack.
Having made ground in centre field, the Giants worked the ball out wide for Walker to collect near the touchline and then show great strength to shrug off three defenders and dive over. So much for ‘men versus boys’ on this particular occasion!
Unfortunately, Scott Owen’s touchline conversion attempt fell just short.
But at 4-0 ahead, the young Giants couldn’t have asked for anything more.
And it wasn’t until the 23rd minute when their resistance was broken for the first time.
A neat chip on the first tackle from Ben Black caught the defence on the hop and Tom Henderson was on hand to collect and touch down for a try he also converted to give the Bulldogs a lead they were never to lose.
As the half progressed, Batley’s extra power and know-how began to take its toll and by the break the visitors found themselves 22-4 behind.
Former Giants Academy hooker Kris Lythe, Daley Williams and Chris Buttery all crossed for scores, with Henderson adding two further goals to put the home side firmly in control.
Huddersfield started the second half brightly, with full-back Elliott Gorman – who has spent the winter training with the Super League squad – showing some excellent touches.
As a result, it was slightly against the run of play when another ex-Giant, Paul Mennell, cut the defence open and fed Mark Applegarth to score Batley’s fifth try in the 55th minute.
But rather than deter the Giants, it helped them discover an extra gear and within four minutes they had hit back in superb fashion.
Not surprisingly, Gorman was the catalyst, collecting the ball on halfway and then showing blistering pace to beat the cover and feed the hard-working Jack Carvill to finish off in some style.
Ben Whitehead added the extras and, at 26-10, the Giants had been handed a glimmer of hope.
Unfortunately, just as in the first half, the longer the half progressed, the stronger the Bulldogs became, and in the final 10 minutes they ran in three further tries to take their tally to eight.
Buttery grabbed two more to complete his hat trick and Lewis Palfrey also crossed and added his third goal to give them a flattering final scoreline.
It was a victory for Batley, but arguably a moral one for the Giants.
Batley Bulldogs: Preece; Potts, Daley Williams, Maun, Campbell; Black, Henderson; Frodsham, Mennell, Potter, Scott, Toohey, Lythe. Subs (all used): Darren Williams, Palfrey, Walmsley, Hirst, Menzies, Buttery, Lindsay, Applegarth.
Tries: Buttery 3, Henderson, Lythe, Daley Williams, Applegarth, Palfrey.
Goals: Henderson 3 from 4, Palfrey 3 from 4.
Huddersfield Giants: Gorman; F Walker, Farnsworth, Farrell, Chester; O’Grady, Owen; Eastwood, Kiss, Kean, J Walker, Carvill, Fox. Subs (all used): Whitehead, Cullimore, Graham, Naylor, Bradbury, Leek, Nicholson, Thackeray, Blagborough.
Tries: F Walker, Carvill.
Goals: Owen 0 from 1, Whitehead 1 from 1.
Referee: Ronnie Laughton.