NATHAN BROWN said straight after the pre-season defeat at Castleford a week ago that his side needed to put in a lot of hard work before next month’s start of the Super League XVII season.
But judging by last night’s effort against a youthful Wigan at the DW Stadium for Warriors captain Sean O’Loughlin’s testimonial game, there’s probably even more work required than anyone realised!
Yes, the Giants may have won the game 30-18, but that merely papered over some very obvious cracks.
For large parts of this trial contest the Giants looked disjointed on attack and unsure on defence, which must have been a real worry for Brown and his coaching staff, particularly with the League opener at Wigan just around the corner on Sunday, February 5.
And that was despite the Galpharm chief making limited changes to the side that took to the field for the 32-22 defeat at the Tigers.
The only switch in the backs was at centre, with Lee Gilmour taking over from Joe Wardle, who picked up a hip injury in last week’s clash.
In the pack, Dale Ferguson marked his first game of the year following shoulder surgery by moving up from second row to prop.
Another key switch was new signing Tommy Lee shifting from hooker to loose-forward.
Yet while the Giants fielded their strongest available squad, the Warriors sent a largely inexperienced line-up into battle, with just a handful of players with an impressive Super League CV.
Unfortunately, that hardly showed in the opening exchanges as – just like at Castleford – Huddersfield made a shaky start.
On Wigan’s first attack after three minutes they took the lead through their new Australian centre Anthony Gelling, and the scene had been set for a far from encouraging opening 40 minutes.
Although the visitors nudged 6-4 ahead after 12 minutes when Danny Brough followed up his own bomb and then added the conversion, they continued to look unconvincing.
With errors aplenty, the youthful Warriors were only too pleased to take full advantage, crossing for further tries through Gareth Hock and John O’Donnell to make it 12-6 after 28 minutes.
Thank goodness Jack Murphy was off target with his three touchline conversion attempts!
Well-worked tries in the final nine minutes from Greg Eden – his first for the Giants following his move from Castleford – and Eorl Crabtree, both converted by Brough, did help Brown’s men take an 18-12 interval advantage.
But leading at the break was arguably the only real positive from that opening effort.
The second half didn’t start that much brighter, with Wigan unlucky not to strike first.
That did change eight minutes after the restart when good pressure enabled Shaun Lunt to stretch over from close range and signal an amazing but brief hailstorm in the process.
Brough’s goal made it 24-12.
Such was the nature of this performance, however, that it was no surprise they were unable to capItalise.
And when Tom Spencer collected a rebound off a post and plunged over for Murphy to goal to cut the deficit to six points, tHe Warriors sniffed blood as Kris Radlinski was added to the mix as a sub.
Fortunately, Eden had other ideas as he raced away and fed Bob Fairbank to finish off converted try No5 shortly after to restore the 12-point cushion and confirm the victory.
Wigan Warriors: Mellor; Russell, Gelling, Hughes, Murphy; Powell, Leuluai; Dudson, L Tomkins, Spencer, Hock, Tuson, O’Loughlin. Subs: Burke, Carberyy, Acton, Leatherbarrow, Lloyd, O’Donnell, Crowe, Harrison, Radlinski.
Tries:Gelling, Hock, O’Donnell, Spencer.
Huddersfield Giants: Eden; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Gilmour, George; Grix, Brough; Mason, Robinson, Ferguson, Chan, Fairbank, Lee. Subs: Crabtree, Lunt, Walker, Molloy, Cording, Sarsfield, Johnson.
Tries: Brough, Eden, Crabtree, Lunt, Fairbank.
Goals: Brough 5/5
Referee: Thierry Alibert.