HUDDERSFIELD Giants made a brief return to the top of Super League XVi with a hard-fought 28-20 triumph over battling Catalan Dragons.
But if they can build on the many positives of their match-winning performance against the in-form French, then spending far more time at the summit isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
Yes, coach Nathan Brown’s men will need to play much better if they are to win at champions Wigan in the ‘Big One 3’ at the DW Stadium on Saturday.
And if they could do that, the Giants could again return to the top to replace Warrington Wolves, who won 46-16 at Hull KR to ensure Huddersfield’s latest time as leaders lasted under 24 hours.
But after getting the Wakefield horror show of the week before out of their system, Brown’s men can again start to look forward rather than back.
Huddersfield were boosted by the return of five regulars who sat out their shock defeat to the Wildcats, and they were the more inventive side, with Luke Robinson and Kevin Brown linking to great effect at half-back in the absence of the injured Danny Brough.
They were able to gain the upper hand thanks to another strong forward show to get the better of a Dragons’ pack that has been more than a match for most Super League opponents this season, hence an impressive record of just one top-flight defeat in their last 10 games before arriving at Huddersfield’s temporary Halifax home.
The Giants’ experienced props – Crabtree, Griffin and Mason – were all in dominant mood, while fit-again David Fa’alogo looks ready to terrorise opposition defences once again.
Dale Ferguson also made a top contribution after returning following a three-week injury lay-off with a back strain.
And it shouldn’t be too long before fellow second row forward, Australian Test star Luke O’Donnell, is ready to bring his significant impact back to the side after hamstring problems.
Exciting times indeed for Giants fans, and potentially far more exciting than what developed into a thrilling game against the Dragons.
Catalan trailed 22-8 after an hour but staged a tremendous fightback to set up a nerve-wracking finale.
Veteran Dragon Steve Menzies, who has been urged by his coach to play on beyond his 38th birthday in December, will look back on a mixed performance as he mulls over the decision.
He saved a try by getting his body underneath Huddersfield full-back Scott Grix when he reached the line on 22 minutes, but four minutes later saw his pass intended for winger Damien Blanch intercepted by David Hodgson for the opening score of the match.
Hodgson went 95m unopposed to register his 10th try of the season and then helped his side double their lead when he collected Brown’s long cut-out pass, raced clear and kicked ahead for David Faiumu TO gather and score his first try of the season.
Grix, who was taking the goalkicking responsibilities in the absence of Brough, was unable to convert either try and the Dragons halved the deficit just before half-time when scrum-half Scott Dureau gathered Robinson’s kick on the last tackle to sprint 90m for a breakaway try.
Huddersfield extended their lead just three minutes into the second half when prop Darrell Griffin took Faiumu’s short pass from dummy half to cross for his side’s third try.
Grix succeeded at the third attempt with the conversion and made it 16-4 with a penalty shortly afterwards.
The impressive Giants were over again but centre Joe Wardle was brought back for a forward pass and Catalan grabbed themselves a lifeline thanks to a superb piece of finishing from Blanch.
The Australian winger got over again shortly afterwards after Clint Greenshields had stolen the ball from Grix in front of the Huddersfield posts but this time he put a foot in touch as Leroy Cudjoe came up with a great defensive play.
The Giants looked to have secured the win on the hour when Robinson combined with David Fa’alogo to get Brown over for a fourth try and Grix kicked his third goal.
That came moments after the Dragons were reduced to 12 men with the sin-binning of Setaimata Sa after being given a final warning for persistent infringements.
But the visitors shrugged off their numerical disadvantage, scoring two tries in four minutes to cut the deficit to just two points.
Hooker Henderson was the creator of both tries, laying on the pass for Jason Baitieri to touch down and then providing the kick for Jean-Philippe Baile to score.
Dureau added both conversions to set up a tense finish, but Hodgson eased Huddersfield’s anxiety by taking Cudjoe’s pass to score his second try and Grix kicked his fourth goal.