HUDDERSFIELD Giants opened 2011 with an 18-10 pre-season victory over Hull KR that produced far more positives than negatives ahead of the start of the Super League XVI campaign.
In the opening quarter when coach Nathan Brown fielded a strong line-up for Eorl Crabtree’s testimonial clash at the Galpharm, they looked far more powerful, sharper and fitter than their opponents.
Even without the likes of Lee Gilmour, Darrell Griffin, Larne Patrick and Andy Raleigh, who all started on the bench, and injured trio Shaun Lunt (hernia), Danny Kirmond (finger) and Luke Robinson (shoulder), the Giants looked like a side that will remain on the up.
An 18-6 lead by the 19th minute – thanks to three well-crafted tries to one Rovers’ breakaway – underlined the obvious superiority of the hosts.
It’s one thing talking about how good things are going in pre-season training, but it’s another turning those words into actions.
Fortunately, the Giants had no problems following that through.
During that highly encouraging opening, Danny Brough, for instance, was able to show everyone exactly how much he is benefiting from a first Giants pre-season.
His kicking game was immense, while his ability to take on the line and his turn of pace was a joy to behold. It was no surprise to anyone he was chosen as the man-of-the-match.
But he certainly wasn’t alone in catching the eye.
Apart from two loose passes inside his own 20 – it’s better to do them now than during the season itself, of course! – Scott Grix has wasted little time showing he could be the natural long-term successor to the departed Brett Hodgson at full-back. His ability to chose just the right moment to join the attack and his general positional sense in defence had ‘Hodgson’ written all over it.
With Grix switching from wing to full-back, Jermaine McGillvary had the chance to prove he could be the man to create the problems wide on the right. He didn’t disappoint.
Time and again he came inside looking for work and was strong as an ox when taking on the big Rovers forwards.
In contrast, the Giants pack looked very comfortable dealing with the attacking threat of their opponents.
Most eyes were obviously on England prop Crabtree, who was able to see his testimonial script go according to plan by taking the first drive of the game during two typically solid spells.
But the debut of Australia Test back-rower Luke O’Donnell was also a major feature on the day and he, too, looked incredibly strong.
For a first Huddersfield run-out since his move from North Queensland Cowboys and a first start since last September after missing his club’s final four Australian NRL games with a knee injury, the signs were incredibly encouraging.
His workrate, both on attack and defence, was highly impressive, and it’s clear from game No1 he will be a top-quality addition to what is already a very strong Giants pack.
And that pack wasted no time whatsoever making its intentions clear, with several early charges paving the way for a lovely cut-out pass from Grix – al a Hodgson – to send McGillvary racing in at the corner.
The busy Grix was also involved in try No2 as he fed Leroy Cudjoe to show great strength to power over from close range seven minutes later.
With Brough landing both touchline conversions, the Giants had scored virtually a point a minute.
The Robins did temporarily stem the tide when, completely against the run of play, they took a quick tap on their 20 for Peter Fox to outpace the cover and finish off under the posts for Michael Dobson to convert.
But for the rest of the half, Huddersfield remained on top. By the 19th minute they had added their third try as Brough collected a loose pass on halfway and sped off to finish off in the opposite corner and again add the extras.
Keal Carlile and Darrell Griffin both came desperately close to extending the home side’s first-half advantage, but as substitutions aplenty started to be made, the contest became understandably scrappy.
With players coming on and off at virtually one every two minutes in the second period, a 42nd-minute unconverted try from new Hull KR signing Craig Hall was all that troubled the scoreboard operator as the fixture became even more of a glorified training run.
But there was still time for a number of the very talented crop of Giants’ youngsters to prove they have the potential to hack it against experienced Super League performers.
On several occasions, the hosts came close to adding to their lead.
However, a win to celebrate Crabtree’s 10 years at his hometown club and a very useful run-out for Brown’s men made sure those in the home camp left the Galpharm knowing it was a job well done.
Huddersfield Giants: Grix; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Lawrence, Hodgson; Brown, Brough; Crabtree, Faiumu, Mason, Fa’alogo, Horne, O’Donnell. Subs (all used): J Griffin, Molloy, Wardle, Wood, Gilmour, D Griffin, Patrick, Raleigh, McNally, Cording, Fairbank, Carlile.
Tries: McGillvary (6), Cudjoe (13), Brough (19).
Goals: Brough 3 from 3.
Scrums won: 7.
Penalties conceded: 9.
Hull KR: Briscoe; Fox, Welham, Webster, Cockayne; Green, Dobson; Vella, Fisher, Clinton, Newton, Galea, Murrell. Subs (all used): Wheeldon, Taylor, Cook, Hall, Latus, Beaumont, Hodgson.
Tries: Fox (16), Hall (42).
Goal: Dobson 1 from 2.
Scrums won: 7.
Penalties conceded: 11.
Referee: Thierry Alibert.