AFTER all the pre-season hype and the quality of the display to win at Catalans Dragons, there was a massive feeling of disappointment that victory couldn’t have been achieved against St Helens.
But even in defeat there was still an incredibly strong feeling that the Giants under new coach Nathan Brown are heading in the right direction.
It’s fair to say that a final scoreline of 23-6 was cruel in the extreme on the hosts, with Saints chief Mick Potter the first to acknowledge that fact.
And the new main man at Knowsley Road also admitted that if his side’s defence hadn’t been so strong, it could have been a completely different story.
He wasn’t wrong.
The Giants created a number of chances, particularly during a highly dominant second-half spell, but were continually met by an incredibly solid Saints’ wall.
Shaun Lunt, Simon Finnigan and Brett Hodgson were all held up over the tryline, while Martin Aspinwall was taken into touch by the corner flag as he attempted to touch the ball down.
Against almost any other side in the competition such pressure would surely have resulted in a win for the Giants – but not against an in-form Saints, who have now extended their club record run to 19 unbeaten in the regular rounds of Super League.
The Giants did manage to cross once during the contest when Luke Robinson’s perfectly-weighted kick to the corner was plucked out of the air by Paul Whatuira, who then showed great strength to touch the ball down despite a large number of bodies around him.
That made the score 12-6 after 45 minutes, and hopes were high the Giants could make it two wins out of two and give Brown the perfect Galpharm start.
But despite such a brave effort to break the Saints’ line, they were all to be in vain as two late tries sealed the home side’s fate.
Those simply rubbed salt into the Giants’ wounds, particularly as they were scored on the back of a couple of debatable refereeing calls from new French Super League official Thierry Alibert.
They were both at the expense of the excellent Brett Hodgson, who must be a little bemused by the ‘interpretation’ of referees over here compared to those from his former home in the Australian NRL.
In the build-up to Tony Puletua’s vital match-clinching 75th-minute score Hodgson was harshly penalised for holding down Maurie Fa’asavalu after halting his rampaging charge.
Then in the final seconds and after Sean Long had edged his side further ahead with a drop goal, Hodgson appeared to be tackled and was then shoved into touch by a second effort.
It should have been a Huddersfield penalty.
Instead, Saints were awarded a scrum and the position was created for Gary Wheeler to plunge over in the far corner.
To say it was a frustrating finale was an understatement, particularly as Mr Alibert turned a blind eye to holding down during the entire first 40 minutes.
But even though the Giants may have felt the referee did them few favours with the way he handled the contest, the Frenchman certainly couldn’t be held responsibility for the crucial missed tackles that enabled Saints to open up a 12-2 interval lead.
Huddersfield started strongly, with Brett Hodgson giving his side the lead with a fourth-minute penalty before great Saints defence prevented Keith Mason from scoring against his former club.
But when the visitors opened the tryscoring against the run of play through Paul Wellens after 14 minutes the tide began to turn.
Within five minutes Saints were over again when, following a great Long break, Ade Gardner touched down in the opposite corner.
To make matters worse, centre Michael Lawrence was forced to retire after being concussed preventing the Long break.
And nine minutes before the break, more good St Helens approach play gave Lee Gilmour the space to charge through.
Fortunately, Long left his kicking boots at home and failed to add any of the conversions, albeit from wide out, to keep the Giants firmly in the hunt at the interval.
Whatuira’s 45th-minute try did give a great deal of hope.
But in the end it was never nearly enough.