HUDDERSFIELD Giants had their first taste of what life will be like without Brett Hodgson next season as they cruised to a 38-10 triumph at Crusaders
A dead leg forced the inspirational Super League Man of Steel to miss the clash just days after it was announced he will be departing at the end of the year.
It’s pretty obvious the Giants are going to miss the Australian goal-kicking full-back next year, both on and off the field.
But on the evidence of this game alone, they definitely have the ready-made full-back replacement in Leroy Cudjoe, who was again a rock at the back, and goal-kicking option in Danny Brough.
On top of that, they will, of course, still have one top-quality Hodgson in their side in David, who was on hand to celebrate his third hat trick of the season as the Giants rattled up win No8 of the campaign.
But even though the visitors were such convincing winners in the end, this had all the makings of being a far from straightforward afternoon.
The Giants’ last-minute build-up couldn’t have been any worse as Shaun Lunt was injured in the warm-up and replaced on then bench by 18th man Scott Grix.
But the visitors soon forgot all about their initial woes with a lightning start to the contest.
Within three minutes they had hit the front.
Welsh rugby union legend Gareth Thomas was taken into touch running the ball out from his own line and from the subsequent set, the ball was swept to the right for Kevin Brown to dummy over with ease for Brough to add his first conversion of the afternoon.
And four minutes later the Giants had doubled their lead on the back of a Brough interception and 50m break upfield.
Although he was eventually caught 30m from the Crusaders’ try-line, Huddersfield took full advantage of a stretched defence as Brown kicked to the corner for David Hodgson to collect and score.
But the Welsh side recovered well and as the game progressed they became more of a threat.
It was no surprise, therefore, when they narrowed the gap after 23 minutes when Michael Witt’s great pass sent Weller Hauraki charging through a bog gap to score.
Witt converted, and the pressure was on.
Only great Giants’ try-line defence prevented their hosts from adding to their tally, and with two minutes of the half remaining their tackling exploits were rewarded with their third try.
Lee Gilmour’s strong drive split the Crusaders’ defence and he immediately fed the supporting Graeme Horne to race clear before feeding Leroy Cudjoe to cross under the posts and make it 18-6 at the break.
Within six minutes of the restart that lead had been increased to 18 points with another wonderfully crafted score.
Again Brown was at the very heart, releasing Gilmour 40m out to race away and feed the supporting Grix – wearing Luke Robinson’s No9 shirt due to his last-second call-up – to finish off.
A Brown break moments later almost gave Hodgson his second.
But the Crusaders responded well to stay firmly in the contest when Witt’s kick to the corner was collected by Luke Dyer to make it 24-10.
Click on image below for a gallery of match action pics from Sunday's game.Related content
Their optimism was shortlived, however, as the Giants struck for a fifth time in the 63rd minute.
The ever-influential David Faiumu’s lovely offload in the tackle sent Brough racing away and he slipped the pass to Brad Drew to mark his second Giants’ Super League debut with a try in front of the travelling Huddersfield fans.
Nick Youngquest was denied a try by a forward pass in the 68th minute, but there was no denying the Giants four minutes later.
Brown and Cudjoe combined superbly down the left for Brown’s superb long pass to put Hodgson over for his second.
At 34-10, the men from West Yorkshire were out of sight, but they were still not finished.
With two minutes remaining, Drew took the ball to the line and had the skill and vision to slip the pass out to give Hodgson a walk-in and seal another rock-solid success.