DAVID HODGSON helped put Huddersfield back on the Super League XVI victory track with three well-taken tries as the Giants went some way to erasing the bitter memory of last week’s heavy defeat at Wigan.
The vastly-experienced winger was in the right place at the right time on three occasions in the second half to make sure his side remains third in the top-flight table, one point behind second-placed Wigan and three ahead of St Helens in fourth.
And the hat trick further underlined the rich vein of form the 29-year-old is currently in.
It’s now 12 tries in the last eight games for the former England flier, who has also notched six of those on the ground where he began his professional career – The Shay in Halifax.
There’s much speculation linking Hodgson with a move to new Super League club Widnes Vikings for 2012, with the Hull-born back out of contract at the Giants at the end of this year.
But whoever boasts his services next season knows they have a player on their hands capable of bringing a great deal to the club, both on and off the field.
That’s also the case for prop Darrell Griffin, who continues to be linked with a switch to Leeds Rhinos, despite having a year remaining on his current Giants contract.
The England front-rower has made it clear he’s giving as little thought as possible to his future at this stage, instead focusing 100% on helping the Giants achieve as much success as possible this year.
And there’s no doubt this approach is paying dividends.
Yet again Griffin led from the front from minute one against the Crusaders with a number of strong, and highly damaging, carries.
Those without question helped settle any nerves the Giants may have had as they went into battle with a much-changed squad due to injuries to key players.
Gregg McNally was making his Super League debut at full-back to enable Scott Grix to shift to scrum half, second-rower David Fa’alogo started at prop for the Giants for the first time, while outside back Michael Lawrence was a shock starter in the second row.
But it was hard to tell so many important moves had to be made given the way Huddersfield began to contest the game on the back of Griffin’s early drives.
Within two minutes the hosts were threatening their visitors’ line, with Grix unlucky not to score from a Kevin Brown grubber kick.
But from the resulting drop-out, the position was quickly worked for Brown’s short pass to send Fa’alogo charging through from close range unopposed.
McNally made no mistake with the conversion to settle his individual nerves, and the perfect start had been made.
But four minutes later it was even better.
More strong work from the forwards close to the line forced the Welshmen onto the back foot and Grix’s dab to the corner on the sixth tackle was collected by Joe Wardle to dive over and celebrate his new contract extension in style.
McNally again goaled, and it was 12-0.
But it took Huddersfield 16 more minutes to extend their advantage to an even healthier 18 points.
A long Grix penalty kick to touch pinned the Crusaders on their own line and, within seconds, Brown was taking full advantage by dummying and stepping his way over without a finger being laid on him. At that stage, the Giants were in cruise control, with the only major disappointment the fact they were just 18-0 ahead at the break.
They were certainly far better than that, and with a more clinical edge – Dale Ferguson, Wardle and Keith Mason all blew gilt-edge chances after being put clear – they could have been at least 30 points ahead.
And at the start of the second period it looked as if they might be about to pay the ultimate price for letting the chances slip away.
Within six minutes of the restart, Tony Martin had crossed for two tries, converted by Michael Witt, and the score was almost unbelievably 18-12.
Fortunately, however, it was just the wake-up call the Giants needed.
Four minutes later, Lawrence and McNally combined to split their opponents’ defence wide open and Grix was on hand to grubber-kick through for Hodgson to strike.
On this occasion, McNally was unable to add the extras.
But he made no mistake on his final three attempts.
After an hour, and just after Richard Moore had been sin-binned for a ‘robust’ challenge on the unfortunate Luke Robinson, Grix, Robinson and Cudjoe linked up to give the in-form winger his second.
Then 10 minutes later, the same players came up with a carbon copy to give Hodgson his second hat trick of the season.
Lawrence completed the scoring with a neatly-taken 75th-minute score to guarantee the Giants gained revenge for their shock 32-8 defeat at the Crusaders on Good Friday.
But the contest ended on a sour note when Hep Cahill was sin-binned and placed on report for a challenge on Brown after he had kicked the ball.
The Giants captain was placed in a neck brace and stretchered off the field as a precaution.
But thankfully, within minutes of getting back to the changing room, he was back on his feet celebrating Super League win No14.