CONFIDENT Huddersfield Giants strolled to a victory in the South of France which suggested they mean business in the Super League play-offs.
Coach Nathan Brown’s men appeared to play large chunks of the Catalans contest in second gear, only sparking briefly into life to grab the tries that guaranteed a relatively straightforward success.Related content
There were a few moments when the Dragons did threaten to tear up the script and ruin Huddersfield’s chances of finishing fifth, particularly early on when Brett Hodgson twice came up with try-saving plays.
But from the moment the impressive Stephen Wild charged over to break the deadlock after 29 minutes, there was only going to be one winner.
The men from Perpignan were desperate to end their season on a high to avoid finishing bottom and give departing coach Kevin Walters and half-a-dozen players a decent send-off.
But they found the Giants in fairly unforgiving mood as the visitors returned to England with their main objectives complete.
Fifth place was confirmed after a rock-solid work-out and all 17 players emerged unscathed, including David Faiumu who took one huge hit just before half-time which at first looked as if he may have done some serious jaw damage.
Losing the in-form Faiumu would obviously have been a massive blow to the Giants’ play-off hopes.
His contribution from the substitutes’ bench over the past few months has been immense, and it was the case again at Catalans.
Until his arrival, the Giants were struggling to find any genuine spark and cohesion.
Several early chances were squandered as they struggled to gain the upper hand.
But as soon as Faiumu entered the fray and his left foot step started working its magic, everything began to fall into place.
And 11 minutes before the break the visitors finally found a way through a dogged Dragons defence.
A strong Leroy Cudjoe run from deep set the ball rolling.
After making good ground he was eventually halted 40m out, Luke Robinson immediately collected from actin half and provide an exquisite short ball for Wild to collect, race clear and round full-back Clint Greenshields to finish off for Brett Hodgson to land the first of his three conversions.
It was then only a matter of time before the Giants would strike again, although the decent turn-out of Giants fans – numbering at least 300 – did have to wait until minute 38 for that to happen, and on the back of Catalans error at that.
But all credit to Kevin Brown for the ‘hit’ on Dane Carlaw which forced the big centre to spill the ball and for Shaun Lunt to kick ahead and David Hodgson touch down for try No24 of the year.
At 10-0 at the break, Huddersfield were already firmly in the driving seat.
Yet it was a spell at the start of the second half that proved the most decisive.
With the Giants increasing the tempo and off-loading at will, it took them just two minutes to extend their advantage when Brown worked the position for Lunt to stroll over from short range.
And five minutes later, the men from West Yorkshire were over again.
A deft Robinson kick forced a Dragons’ drop-out and from the subsequent set Brough kicked ahead for Cudjoe to collect with ease for the fourth try.
Hodgson converted and it was 22-0.
Setaimata Sa did have the audacity to claw back a try for the hosts from a Tony Gigot kick after 52 minutes.
But Huddersfield very quickly regrouped and by the 63rd minute had reasserted their authority with their final try of the contest.
And it was somewhat fitting that it should come from Robinson, who had caused the Catalans defence problems all game.
Collecting the ball 30m out, the half-back or hooker spotted a slight gap and instantly sprinted through and outpaced the cover to finish off.
With a 20-point lead having been re-established, the game had been won.
But all credit to Catalans for the way they finished the game, and their season.
Within three minutes of Robinson’s try, the Dragons grabbed a second of their own, with another Gigot kick giving Frederic Vaccari a try in the corner.Related content
As the Giants began to, very understandably, wilt in the southern French heat mistakes began to creep back into their game.
But they were still able to finish fairly strongly, forcing the home side to drop-out twice in the closing moments.
It was a solid finale to what was a very solid pre-play-off display.