Defensive resolve is the keynote ingredient for Huddersfield Giants as they take on St Helens at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Head coach Rick Stone believes only his side’s best tackling and organisational work will be good enough against a Saints line-up which has been the stand-out in Super League so far.
Stone – who has prop Adam Walne back in the 19 and England wingman Jermaine McGillvary all set for a first appearance of the season – was pleased with how the Giants put up the barriers in their 20-6 victory over Warrington.
But he feels the Claret and Gold will need to build significantly on that work to be successful against Justin Holbrook’s men, who have defeated Castleford Tigers at home (46-6) and Catalans Dragons (21-12)away in their first two games.
“Saints have done it two different ways in the first two weeks,” explained Stone, who is again without hamstring-injury victims Michael Lawrence and Shannon Wakeman.
“They were pretty spectacular on attack in the first game against Cas with some of their structure, and Ben Barba’s influence was massive.
“It was the same in the second game, too, although he wasn’t quite as prominent and, obviously, they had a bloke sent off against Catalans so defensively they had to play a bit tougher.
“But any time you go to Catalans it’s a challenge, so to get the points away from home is a credit and they’ve had good wins.
“To have had a week off will no doubt have helped them because they had a number of players – probably more than anyone else – away with World Cup commitments, so for them to get another couple of weeks, like us, would be beneficial for them.”
So what elements of the gameplan do the Giants need to serve up well to ensure a second win of the campaign?
“We set ourselves a bit of a benchmark after the first game (a 38-12 defeat at Hull FC),” answered Stone, who has left out prop Tyler Dickinson from the squad which faced Warrington.
“First of all we wanted a bit of a response for ourselves against Warrington after what happened the first week.
“And secondly we wanted to show defensively the sort of resolve I think we are going to need to be successful – any decent team bases their game around a good defensive performance.
“For us against Warrington, when admittedly the conditions helped because it was tricky weather wise and tough, we had some good resolve, we scrambled really hard for kicks and we turned up in our goalline defence.
“That was the most pleasing part, and I would like to see ourselves back up that sort of defensive performance again this week against Saints.
“We know we are going to have to be good defensively because Saints have got plenty of strike right across the park.”
Ideally, Stone would not have liked a week off after the win against Warrington because momentum is important, but it’s allowed him to get the likes of McGillvary and Walne fully fit and drill his squad on the training ground.
“Defence is the key for us (in this game), and probably how we control the ball and control the game as well,” he said.
“Generally our kicking game is not too bad, and if you have a good attitude in defence and keep the opposition under 16 points, kick well and hang onto the footy for a 75-80% completion rate, you are going to give yourself a chance.
“That’s our aim each week – it’s about marking opposition teams beat you rather than beating yourself – and that will stand us in good stead and make us competitive in most games we play with those sorts of basics.”
Giants: Jake Mamo, Jermaine McGillvary, Jordan Turner, Aaron Murphy, Lee Gaskell, Danny Brough, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Kruise Leeming, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Dale Ferguson, Jordan Rankin, Oliver Roberts, Ukuma Ta’ai, Paul Clough, Daniel Smith, Adam Walne, Adam O’Brien, Darnell McIntosh, Colton Roche.
Saints: Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, Adam Swift, Theo Fages, Matty Smith, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Kyle Amor, Zeb Taia, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Luke Douglas, Luke Thompson, Dom Peyroux, Danny Richardson, Regan Grace, Matty Lees, Ben Barba.
Referee: Liam Moore (RFL).