HUDDERSFIELD Giants dug deeper than at any other stage this season to overcome dogged Bradford Bulls and awful conditions to remain two points clear at the top of the Super League XVII table.
Despite the contest being played in a mudbath and having Luke O’Donnell harshly sin-binned in the second half, coach Nathan Brown’s men were full value for win number ten of the campaign.
The Bulls had been in a rich vein of form going into the contest, having beaten Leeds Rhinos in their last home League game on Good Friday.
But they found the Giants a totally different proposition as they proved to everyone yet again why they’re top of the League – and why Danny Brough is the man of the moment.
The Giants half-back was without doubt the difference between the two teams, with his kicking game making sure his side remained on the front foot from start to finish.
Brown made a couple of key changes to the side that had hammered Hull 42-16 in the Challenge Cup at the KC Stadium the week before.
Aaron Murphy was handed a start at full-back for the rested Greg Eden, while forwards Keith Mason and Dale Ferguson took the places of David Fa’alogo and Lee Gilmour, who were also given a breather.
And those who sat this one out were probably grateful given the fact the heavens opened as soon as the contest got under way, making the game at times a complete lottery.
In fact, the conditions were almost a carbon copy of last season’s Odsal encounter when the Bulls found the wet to their liking and stormed to that 36-0 triumph.
But despite the general belief that the wet weather could prove to be more to the home side’s advantage, the Giants had the better of the opening period and deserved to lead 10-6 at the break, with inspirational half-back Danny Brough again to the fore.
An early Danny Addy penalty gave Bradford the initial momentum, but it wasn’t long before the Huddersfield No7 was pulling the strings and making a massive contribution.
And that was at its most significant in the 15th minute when the visitors took the lead for the first time.
Collecting the ball just inside his own half on the sixth tackle, the Bulls hung back waiting for the kick.
Brough needed little invitation to take full advantage, shooting through the smallest of gaps, making good ground and then showing amazing vision to kick to the right for Jermaine McGillvary to collect and score, too far out for Brough to add the extras.
Good Giants pressure almost brought further reward before the Bulls regained the lead six minutes before the break when Michael Platt charged in at the corner after the Huddersfield defence had initially appeared to have done its job. Ben Jeffries failed to convert.
But within four minutes, Brown’s boys had regained control with another exquisite score.
A John Bateman kick was collected by the rock-solid Murphy close to the line.
He immediately moved upfield and fed Luke George on the 20, who burst through the space in front of him and then rounded full-back Shaun Ainscough and beat the cover and finish off under the posts for Brough to land the goal.
Brough’s boot was also doing the business three minutes after the restart when he landed a straight penalty from 40m.
A monster hit by Karl Pryce on a rampaging Murphy brought the home fans back into life.
But that was a rare bright moment for the home faithful during the third quarter as Huddersfield continued to dominate possession and field position.
Two great Brough grubber kicks forced the Bulls to drop-out and in the 57th minute he added a second penalty to leave Bradford needing to score twice to get back in front.
They were, however, handed a major lifeline seven minutes later when O’Donnell was controversially sent to the sin-bin after coming to the aid of Brough, after he became the victim of some rough treatment in the tackle.
That incident sparked a free-for-all as tempers began to flare
But it didn’t knock the Giants out of their stride and they rammed home their dominance in the 76th minute to put their hosts firmly in their place.
And it was fitting that it was Brough who had that final say, latching onto a smart Luke Robinson pass to charge over from close range.
Brough had no problems adding the extras to prove why Huddersfield really are the team to beat in Super League right now.