Huddersfield Giants’ hopes of cutting the gap on Super League’s top four came to nothing – but it was not for the want of trying.
The injury-hit Giants squad put up a battling display against Hull FC to lose by just four points .
Both defences were impressive and creativity was stifled as both teams looked to enhance their chances when the Super 8s get under way in a fortnight.
As it is, the Giants remain five points off the pace for the time being, but at least head coach Rick Stone will be pleased his side are in very good nick going into the second phase of the competition, having finished regular season.
The return of Martyn Ridyard at half back after missing the 26-4 victory over his parent club Leigh Centurions allowed Giants head coach Rick Stone to move Lee Gaskell back into the centres in an otherwise unchanged line-up.
The more telling changes were made on the part of the home side, with Hull welcoming back skipper Gareth Ellis after a long-term injury, having damaged his
The Former Great Britain back row forward’s presence threatened to be a boost to a side who had lost their last three games - admittedly all on the road at Castleford, St Helens and Leeds.
And on the bench, Chris Green was also back to work for the Airlie Birds after missing most of the season through injury.
It was obvious after 10 minutes that this contest had all the potential to be a tight, slow-burner as neither defence gave anything away.
But on 12 minutes Hull came close to striking the first blow, only for Giants full-back Jordan Rankin to snap up a kick through and sensibly take the tackle behind his own line.
And it wasn’t too much later that the hosts took the lead when pressure led to second rower Mark Minichiello stretching over to dab the ball down. Marc Sneyd added the goal.
The Airlie Birds increased their lead within five minutes as Ellis made his presence felt and paved the way for Josh Bowden to force his way over and Sneyd made no mistake from in front of the posts with the kick.
The Giants were still far from off the pace and five minutes from the break they clawed six points back as they made the most of a penalty award.
The ball was worked nicely to the left for Lee Gaskell to pave the way for winger Darnell McIntosh to score in the corner, and former Hull player Danny Brough banged over the goal.
And as the half-time interval approached, the Giants were in the ascendancy as neat handling stretched the home defence on the opposite flank and England winger Jermaine McGillvary cut back inside and beat three defenders to score, but Brough was unable to land the kick, leaving the Giants trailing 12-10 at the break.
The start of the second period mimicked the first and the longer the defences held out, the more important the first score of the half was going to be.
Hull were creating the better chances with their greater share of possession but the Giants defence has been made of sterner stuff in recent weeks and ensured the opportunities on offer were never clear cut.
However, the visitors were struggling to make any impact at the other end of the field and their best chance around the hour mark was an impressive break by full-back Jordan Rankin, but the ex- NRL player who was back at his former club was tracked down and crowded out.
It felt as though something had to give as Hull looked to take a victory into their Challenge Cup semi-final next weekend, but try-scoring chances continued to elude them and they
settled for two points from a penalty as the clock ran down into the final five minutes to make it 14-10.
And that proved to be enough for the home side.