HUDDERSFIELD Giants are looking in pretty decent shape ahead of their Super League 2016 opener at St Helens on February 5.
After strolling to their 38-6 trial triumph at Hull KR last Sunday, they backed it up with a very solid 26-16 home pre-season success over Catalans Dragons.
The French certainly looked a far more accomplished side than the Robins the week before and did provide the Giants with a genuine test.
However, the fact Huddersfield emerged relatively unscathed after being the dominant force for much of the contest will give head coach Paul Anderson and his men plenty of confidence ahead of the trip to Langtree Park in just under a fortnight.
Although the Giants made a great start to the contest, it soon became apparent this would be a far tougher test than the one they had been given on the east coast six days earlier.
Catalans were far better all-round than the Robins, strong in defence and sharper in attack – this was a genuine contest.
But that hardly looked likely given the speed at which Huddersfield came out of the blocks.
With half-backs Jamie Ellis and Jake Connor immediately into their stride and slick handling to the fore, it took the hosts just seven minutes to open their account.
Jermaine McGillvary was bundled into touch after five minutes, but moments later the ball was whipped out to the opposite side for the impressive Joe Wardle to feed Aaron Murphy to cross in the corner, too far out for Ellis to convert.
Murphy almost grabbed a second three minutes later, but was denied through a forward pass in the process.
Several other half-chances continued to be created as the Giants remained on top, with an Ellis 40-20 a real highlight.
Yet it wasn’t until the 33rd minute that the home side extended their lead when a perfectly-executed kick ahead was gathered by the supporting Scott Grix to cross with ease for Ellis to convert.
It looked as if the Giants would be keeping the Dragons scoreless in the first half, until one late and rare French attack paved the way for former Huddersfield winger Jodie Broughton to cross in the corner.
Fellow new Catalans signing Pat Richards failed to convert, but at 10-4 the game was well poised.
But within 90 seconds of the restart normal service was resumed as the Giants added try number three.
Once again, Ellis was the architect, chipping over superbly for Leroy Cudjoe to win the contest to collect and score – Ellis’s goal made it 16-4.
A stunning break from deep almost opened the way for Murphy to charge over for a second moments later as the Giants threatened to cut loose.
Unfortunately, the men from the South of France had other ideas, with Krisnan Inu crashing over in the 48th minute for Richards to land an excellent touchline conversion.
Great defensive cover work from Kruise Leeming prevented a certain Catalans try almost immediately from the restart.
At that stage, the Catalans and the match officials appeared to be working against the Giants, with all the 50-50 calls going against the home team, with Ellis unlucky not to be awarded a try when Cudjoe knocked the ball into his path and the touchjudge ruling it had gone forward.
That setback, however, seemed to put extra fire in the Huddersfield bellies, and they crossed again in the 57th minute when McGillvary broke from deep and fed Cudjoe to finish off for a third converted score.
And in the 64th minute the roles were reversed as Cudjoe fed McGillvary to finish off after Connor’s initial good work to keep the ball alive in the middle.
Ellis failed to add the extras from the touchline, but at 26-10 the Giants’ overall dominance was being underlined.
As the decisions continued to go against Anderson’s men they were made to pay with seven minutes remaining when Richards finished of a good move and then landed the conversion.
A last-minute flare-up proved there are no such thing as ‘friendlies’ in rugby league, and also showed this was a good win in a highly-competitive pre-season encounter.<p/> <p/> <p/> <p/>