A STRONG first-half performance saw Huddersfield extend their winning start to this season’s North I campaign to five on the bounce – but again, not without a few late scares.
Having opened up an 18-3 lead going into the final couple of minutes of the first period, they slackened off momentarily and coughed up a late score to give the visitors hope of turning the game round.
And although Chris Johnson notched his second penalty of the game just ahead of the half-time whistle, Middlesbrough were still in the match, and it was they who commanded much of the ball in the second period.
Huddersfield were on the board after only three minutes, as quick hands down the line led to Lee Paxman giving brother Ben on the wing the final pass, and he skipped inside beating two men to go over near the left corner.
Johnson failed with the conversion, but was successful with a 22-minute penalty, after Lee Rust had pulled three points back for the visitors with a close-range kick.
And within a minute of Johnson’s three-pointer, they added a second try, when impressive young full-back Tom Ainsworth came into the line at pace.
Scrum half Damian Clayton took the ball up, and quick to realise Mark Whitehead was on his shoulder, he kicked ahead giving the speedy flanker the chance to pounce on the ball over the line, when the Boro full-back fumbled.
This time Johnson converted from the right touchline and then banged over a drop goal on the half-hour to give Huddersfield a clear lead.
The visitors, however, then put together their best phase of play, which ended with scrum half Peter Wright scoring wide out left, and Rust converted to keep his side in the contest.
Early in the second half Johnson found himself sin-binned for coming round the wrong side in a ruck, and Middlesbrough capitalised on their one-man advantage by scoring a second try after 51 minutes, when prop Isa Warsama burrowed under the maul from close range.
Rust missed the conversion, but the Teessiders now had some self-belief and Huddersfield had to defend for long periods, particularly as the visitors were taking a lot of line-out ball.
With just over 10 minutes remaining Rob McClaren came on for Lee Paxman, but within 30 seconds found himself in the sin-bin after an altercation with Wright, while a late penalty from Rust brought Middlesbrough to within a converted try of overtaking Huddersfield.
There was no way Mark Sowerby’s men were going to concede again, however, as they dug in and tackled solidly, Ainsworth in particular pulling off a super tackle on the Boro left winger in the closing few minutes to deny the visitors any reward, and keep their own unbeaten record intact.
Huddersfield: Ainsworth, Paxman (B), Paxman (L) (McClaren 70), Mortimore, Shaw, Johnson, Clayton, Howard, Gough, Stringwell, Rhodes, Harris (Sharrock 78), Hinchliff, Whitehead, Sowerby. Sub (not used) McPhail.
Middlesbrough: Rust, Connor-Hardwick, Norris, Richardson, McNeill, Lee, Wright, Warsama, Horton (R), Horton (B), Bradford, Webb, Wright, Howe, Aldus. Subs: Horton (C), Tebbs, Docherty.
Referee: Mike Beech (South-East group).