POLISHED Huddersfield Giants have sent out an immediate warning to their Super League rivals that another top-three finish might not be beyond their grasp after cruising to a 28-10 triumph at Castleford Tigers last night.
For a first – and only – senior run-out before the start of the new campaign, head coach Nathan Brown’s men looked sharp, eager and powerful.
Admittedly it was far from being a complete performance, with the conceding of the two second-half tries taking some of the gloss off the
But on this evidence, the Giants shouldn’t be lacking in confidence when they face Bradford in their Super League XV opener a week on Friday, something which should have given Bulls boss Steve McNamara food for thought as he looked on from the stands.
New signings Lee Gilmour and Graeme Horne were handed starts in the second row, with fellow newcomers David Fa’alogo and Scott Grix on the bench.
But despite Brown saving several of his ‘big guns’ on the bench, it didn’t take too long for the Giants to take complete control.
With props Darrell Griffin and Andy Raleigh leading from the front, the visitors were immediately dominant.
However, it was from a defensive position from where the Giants drew first blood after six minutes.
With the Tigers on the attack, the impressive Luke Robinson pulled off a one-on-one ball steal on Steve Snitch on his own 20 and had the speed to outpace the defence to score a try, converted by Brett Hodgson.
And three minutes later, the men from the Galpharm had doubled their lead.
After forcing Castleford to drop-out from under their own posts, Kevin Brown – who was looking sharp in his first game since suffering a knee injury in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in August – drove the ball to the line.
Then, quick as a flash, Shaun Lunt was in at dummy half to plunge over from close range.
David Hodgson was denied a try midway through the half when he was brought back for obstruction and five minutes later, Eorl Crabtree’s offload to send Robinson away was adjudged forward.
But they were not to be denied five minutes before the break when the ever-influential Robinson fed Gilmour to cruise through for his first try in Huddersfield colours, which Hodgson again goaled to make it 18-0 at half-time.
At the start of the second period the wounded Tigers came out strongly, forcing the Giants into some much-needed defensive practice, given the nature of the opening 40 minutes.
Michael Wainwright was denied in the corner by a good Leroy Cudjoe tackle within five minutes of the restart.
But the winger wasn’t to be denied three minutes later when he squeezed in at the corner for Joe Westerman to land the touchline conversion
That, however, seemed to be just the wake-up call the Giants required and they struck back in spectacular fashion midway through the half.
Collecting the ball on the sixth tackle on halfway, Robinson chipped over the defence and re-gathered before feeding the supporting Martin Aspinwall.
He then immediately fed Paul Whatuira, who made further ground before dummying through two defenders to touch down for converted try No4.
The fifth score came six minutes later when Huddersfield took play to the line for Graeme Horne to kick neatly to the corner on the sixth tackle and right into the path of Josh Griffin to get the vital touch.
Cudjoe was unable to add the touchline conversion in the absence of captain Hodgson, who had already left the fray. That was a minor disappointment, particularly in light of the concession of a second Castleford try for Michael Shenton with four minutes remaining.
But given the overall Giants’ display it would be unfair to criticise the visitors too much after such a dominant and incredibly encouraging 80 minutes.
Castleford Tigers: McGoldrick; Owen, Shenton, Evans, Wainwright; Widders, Chase; Jackson, Hudson, Huby, Snitch, Jones, Clayton. Subs: Sargent, Higgins, Sherwin, Ferres, Westerman, Netherton, Thompson, Davies, Massey.
Tries: Wainwright, Shenton.
Huddersfield Giants: B Hodgson, D Hodgson, Lolesi, Lawrence, Cudjoe; Brown, Robinson; D Griffin, Lunt, Raleigh, Gilmour, Horne, Faiumu. Subs: Crabtree, Fa’alogo, Grix, Whatuira, Aspinwall, Wood, Patrick, J Griffin, McGillvary
Tries: Robinson, Lunt, Gilmour, Whatuira, J Griffin.
Goals: B Hodgson 4.
Referee: Steve Ganson.