BRAD DREW finally made his second Huddersfield Giants debut and helped inspire the reserves to a big 54-28 triumph over Castleford Tigers at Laund Hill.
It was the popular 34-year-old Australian’s first game since he underwent knee surgery at the end of last season.
But despite not having been in competitive action since last September when he played his final Super League game for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, the inspirational hooker – who did, in fact, wear the No7 shirt on the day – showed some of the touches that made him such a crowd favourite during his first Huddersfield spell between 2005 and 2007.
As a result, he may have done enough to persuade watching head coach Nathan Brown to include him in Sunday’s Carnegie Challenge Cup fourth-round squad to face Hull KR at the Galpharm Stadium.
But there were also others in the weekend line-up who gave Brown a timely reminder that they should be considered for a senior spot.
The likes of prop Larne Patrick and second-row forward Graeme Horne, who have been regulars in the Super League side this season, both put in big displays, as did loose-forward Jacob Fairbank, who led the way with a hat trick.
There was also a solid all-round performance from stand-off Gregg McNally, which was crowned by an impeccable goalkicking display of nine out of nine. Brown has recalled the youngster from his dual registration spell at Whitehaven because he believes it will benefit his long-term development, and there’s no question this display will have done the former England Academy player a power of good.
But it still took McNally, Drew and Co a while to get into their stride, with the Tigers doing all the early running.
It was certainly no surprise when the visitors took the lead after just five minutes with the first of Joe Arundel’s two tries, which was converted by former Giants Academy stand-off Ed Barber.
However, as the Giants began to warm up on the hottest day of the year so far, they soon began to take complete control.
By the 12th minute they had levelled at 6-6 as Adam Walker crashed over from close range from a Fairbank pass for the first of the Giants’ nine converted tries, and by half-time they had opened up a 36-6 interval advantage.
Their second score came after 15 minutes when Horne’s strong break set up Fairbank, and three minutes later Drew collected on the Castleford 20, dummied and shot through in trademark fashion to bring the loudest cheer of the day from the sizeable turnout.
Horne also set up try No4, throwing out a long pass for Greg Johnson to collect and race over before Drew’s perfect kick to the corner gave Sam Hendricks a stroll-in.
Then on the stroke of half-time Drew and McNally combined to put Elliot Hodgson over for a superbly-worked try.
The start of the second half couldn’t have been in starker contrast, however, as Castleford opened up even more strongly than they did in the first period.
By the 50th minute they had shot over for three tries through former Giants Academy winger Richard Lopag, Jacob Senior – son of former Fartown second-rower Gary – and Greg Eden to reduce the deficit to 36-22.
But Drew again took matters into his own hands by settling matters down with the pass to put Fairbank over, and the Giants No13 quickly followed up to complete his hat trick on the back of a Hodgson break to make it 48-22.
Arundel showed great pace to race in for his second with 10 minutes remaining, but it was fitting Drew should have the final say, slipping a short pass for Horne to score with ease in the 74th minute to complete the scoring.