The Huddersfield Giants returned to the top of the Super League XVIII table and ended a run of four successive defeats at Castleford with a totally emphatic victory.
Their one-point lead may only have lasted 24 hours, with Wigan regaining top spot after their 44-24 home win over Wakefield.Related content
However, after the recent setbacks at Warrington and Salford, the brief return to the summit was like a breath of fresh air after Huddersfield celebrated notching up a century of points in their last two games.
Coach Paul Anderson’s men cruised to a 62-6 home win over Widnes on Easter Monday and then recorded a further 40 points in seeing off the struggling Tigers with the minimum amount of fuss.
The gloss may have been taken off the 40-24 triumph as the hosts scored 18 points in the last seven minutes, which is something that didn’t go down well with Anderson, who is demanding his Giants develop a more ruthless streak.
Yet after building up a 40-6 lead with just 57 minutes on the clock, it’s easy to see why his players may have sub-consciously taken their foot off the gas.
May be their intentions were already turning to trying to make it nine wins out of 12 at next Sunday’s home clash against Hull KR at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Despite conceding a fourth-minute converted try to Oliver Holmes, the Giants never looked like losing for the fourth time this term as they took the rest of the opening period by storm.
They led 28-6 at half-time after scorching over for five tries in a 17-minute spell, including two while England stand-off Rangi Chase was in the sin-bin for dissent.
With all due respect to the suspended Eorl Crabtree, his sizeable midfield presence simply wasn’t missed as the experienced Stuart Fielden stepped back up to fill the notable gap with ease.
In fact, all of the Huddersfield front-rowers appeared to relish the extra responsibility of working without their talismanic teammate.
They were almost immediately on the front foot, making strong early in-roads to force their hosts to concede two penalties in the first two minutes, with Leroy Cudjoe halted just short on his side’s first attack.
But after losing the ball on the next tackle, the Giants were punished severely when the Tigers swept upfield to snatch the lead when Chase’s clever pass sent in Holmes for a try that Jamie Ellis converted.
With former Tigers star Danny Brough dictating play, the game was then turned on its head as the Giants replied with their 28-point scoring burst.
Weller Hauraki and Richard Owen did well to deal with teasing kicks from Brough before Huddersfield levelled in the 12th minute when Shaun Lunt forced his way over from acting half-back close to the line in predictable fashion after Craig Kopczak was tackled just short of the try line.
The Giants quickly struck again when Castleford prop Jonathan Walker’s pass went to ground on the last tackle and Joe Wardle scooped up the loose ball to race 80m to score.
Three minutes later the Giants were over again when another ex-Castleford man, Brett Ferres, sent in Aaron Murphy with an exquisite round-the-man cut-out pass.
There was the suspicion of a forward pass in the build-up and it led to Chase being sin-binned for dissent.
But the Giants weren’t going to complain and capitalised on their numerical advantage by adding two more tries while the Tigers were down to 12 men.
Jermaine McGillvary fended off two tacklers and sprinted 70m to score before Cudjoe sent in Luke Robinson and Brough added his fourth goal to put Huddersfield 28-6 up.
The Giants had deliberately targeted the Castleford left, with back-rower Jordan Thompson being forced to cover on the wing, where his defensive naivety in the position was cruelly exposed.
A brief flare-up shortly before half-time resulted in referee Phil Bentham speaking to Chase and Huddersfield’s Scott Grix.
But that failed to unsettle the visitors.
The Tigers did start the second half strongly, with Grix pulling off an outstanding tackle on the tryline to halt the home side’s rampaging Weller Harauki.
Jamie Cording then had an effort ruled out by video referee Ian Smith because Tigers full-back Jordan Tansey was impeded as he attempted to gather Brough’s high kick.
But that was only temporary respite for the Tigers as they were soon punished again for losing possession.
Former Giants prop Keith Mason spilt the ball under pressure from Luke Robinson and Ferres immediately kicked the ball on for McGillvary to outpace opposite number Richard Owen and touch down for his second try of the game and ninth of the season.
The Giants shot further ahead three minutes later when Ferres crossed with ease after Murphy collected a Brough chip to the corner with ease and simply passed the ball back inside for the second-rower to finish off.
Cording was sin-binned in the 64th minute for holding down and the Tigers looked as though they would capitalise when Own burst clear, but he was foiled by Grix’s try-saving tackle.
The Tigers continued to press but were let down by poor handling until they made the score more respectable with three late tries.
Adam Milner scored from acting half, Walker’s break led to Daryl Clark grabbing a 50m try and Walker also powered over after capitalising on a piece of Chase magic, with Ellis adding all three conversions.
But it was too little too late for Castleford, who couldn’t hide from the fact they’d been outclassed.