THE HUDDERSFIELD Giants went into this Yorkshire derby wanting to put on a performance to set them up for a Challenge Cup semi-final – what they produced could not have been further from what they were aiming for.
If you were being really sarcastic you could say that Huddersfield successfully revealed nothing to any watching Warrington spies, but that will not be regarded as particularly amusing in the Giants camp.
To say this display was abject is not really hitting the mark – the upshot was a seventh defeat in eight games and a fall to seventh in the Super League table.
Match statistics, like most statistics, can sometimes be moulded to what you want them to say, but the telling one from this game was that Castleford completed 37 of their sets of six while the Giants completed only 18 – only a miracle could win you a game of rugby league from that position.
After recent displays against London (a comfortable home win) and Hull FC (a narrow away defeat) the Giants were upbeat, but once on the field at Castleford they never really looked switched-on for a minute.
Tackles were missed, passes were flung to no-one or worse to opponents, and by the second half penalties were being conceded and greeted with a shrug of resignation rather than any grievance.
The pattern began from the off as the Giants made a disastrous start when they conceded possession on their first attack and then gave away territory with a needless penalty.
They were duly punished as the Tigers exposed a gap on the left side of the Giants defence where winger Luke George had been sucked inside and though the final pass to winger James Clare was poor and he stumbled taking it, he still had too much time to get in at the corner to open the scoring.
Jamie Ellis, making his first appearance for the Tigers after signing on a full-time basis from Hull, failed to add the goal but was to prove very accurate from then on, landing 10 from 11 attempts.
The Giants produced their best passage of the game as they managed to respond and on 11 minutes got themselves in front. Winger George made a telling break and from that position stand off Danny Brough, facing his former club, he managed to find an angled kick that allowed centre Leroy Cudjoe to get above his two markers and the England man caught the ball cleanly to plant the ball down.
Brough added the goal, but the half back was still struggling to find his range with his kicking game – a number of attempts to push Castleford back merely ended with the ball running dead at the railway end of the Wheldon Road ground.
It was little surprise that the Tigers got back in front on 18 minutes when the Giants and George were again caught moving in from the flank on the left side of defence, and this time centre Jordan Thompson was able to exploit the gap and cruise in for a try. Ellis this time found his range.
From that point on there was no looking back for the home side as they grew in confidence, and nothing to look forward to for the Giants fans as their side seemed to become engulfed by their own frustrations.
There was some fleeting hope with the arrival of David Fa’alogo and Jason Chan from the bench and the Giants went closest to adding to their tally when skipper Kevin Brown released the forward on a charge that was halted just inches short of the line.
But the first period ended with Castleford in the ascendancy, first stretching their lead as winger Nick Youngquest found room enough to beat opposite number Aaron Murphy on the outside to score in the corner.
Then Nathan Massey battled his way free to release Richard Owen, he kicked ahead and the Giants failed to deal with the ball, allowing the full back to pick up and score at the posts.
What the Giants needed was to start the second half with some determination, authority and if anything a sensible head on their collective shoulders.
What happened was that within minutes a string of penalties were conceded in kicking range and Ellis duly extended his tally to six out of seven – and at 22 points ahead the Tigers were pretty much out of sight.
The remainder of the match might as well be presented as a shopping list of Tigers tries for the amount that Giants fans who had to watch the last half hour of the game will want to go through it all again.
Perhaps the worst of the bunch was when skipper Brown tried to force an opening, only to pass to former teammate Josh Griffin, and the centre raced 80 yards to score with only Danny Brough really giving chase.
Owen scored his second try, Adam Milner battled his way through and Jamie Ellis, deservedly Castleford’s man-of-the-match award winner, added four more points to his personal tally.
As for the Giants there is just a week to find the fire that will produce a winning performance to book a place at Wembley.
It could be a long week – indeed, it might need to be!