HEROIC Huddersfield Giants turned on the power and the pace to destroy Catalans Dragons in a fantastic opening to Super League XIV.
It was a far cry from the events in the South of France last May as the visitors simply crumbled in the face of ferocious opposition to be humiliated 48-0.
This time it was the Dragons who were left licking some gaping wounds as the Giants, under new coach Nathan Brown, made their Super League intentions crystal clear.
It’s obviously very early days and it’s hard to read too much into one performance against opponents who were caught short by having their two main pre-season run-outs cancelled by the heavy storms that hit France last month.
But it’s already easy to see that Brown’s Giants are fitter, faster, stronger and hungrier than any of their predecessors, and that Saturday’s Valentine’s Day Massacre could be a taste of things to come.
And ‘massacre’ is not too strong a word, even though a 30-8 final scoreline might suggest Catalans produced some stiff French resistance.
In truth, it was only in the opening 15 minutes and on the back of a 6-0 penalty count that the Dragons made a real fist of it.
Had the hosts scored a try during their early period of dominance rather than having to settle for a solitary Thomas Bosc penalty, it may have been a different story.
But having found it impossible to break through a rock-solid defensive line – the ferocity of the tackling really was a joy to behold – the Giants seized the initiative and their hosts simply had no answer.
From the moment impressive livewire hooker Scott Moore fed the equally imposing Simon Finnigan to crash over for a debut try, converted by fellow new signing Brett Hodgson, to make it 6-2 after 18 minutes there was only going to be one winner.
With former Australian Test prop Jason Ryles already off the field after being shaken to the core by a massive ‘hit’ by Darrell Griffin, aided by Moore, the Giants slowly began to win the physical battle.
And it was no surprise when they doubled their tally seven minutes before the break when Kevin Brown took the ball down the blind side, dummied and stepped and fed the dangerous David Hodgson to finish in style from 30m to make it 12-2 at the break.
It got even better within three minutes of the restart when Shaun Lunt showed great presence of mind and a good step close to the line to cross unopposed after good initial work from lively Luke Robinson.
Hodgson again converted and, at 18-2, the game was already slipping out of the home side’s reach.
Dimitro Pelo did offer the French some brief hope with a 55th-minute converted try to reduce the deficit to 10 points, just moments after Stephen Wild had had a ‘try’ disallowed by the video referee who ruled he had dropped the ball over the line.
But that was only a short interlude as the Giants stepped up another gear to finish the final quarter incredibly strongly, despite having played 79 minutes with just 16 men due to the cruel right hamstring injury suffered by the unfortunate Eorl Crabtree inside a minute of his introduction as a 21st-minute substitute.
Brett Hodgson sparked the late match-winning surge with a penalty before Robinson shot through a gap at lightning pace and fed Finnigan for a second in the 69th minute.
That try came four minutes after the Giants had seen another effort from David Hodgson stamped out by the video referee for ruling Brown had been in an offside position when he set the length-of-the-field move in motion.
But Brown and Huddersfield were not to be denied with six minutes remaining when his smart play sent the rampaging Andy Raleigh over for a thoroughly deserved try to seal a magnificent victory and send the 200-plus Giants travelling army in a 7,533 crowd back to England in the most buoyant – and optimistic - of moods.