Huddersfield Giants ended the regular Super League season with nine wins from 10 matches but coach Simon Woolford says even Friday’s victory at St Helens is unlikely to be enough to secure a top-four finish.
They remain six points adrift of Warrington, who were 56-6 winners over Catalans Dragons, with six rounds left in the Super 8s, but Woolford was pleased with the character shown by his side in their 16-12 success.
“We did get the job done,” he said. “We didn’t play our best footy, particularly from an attack point of view.
“We made it hard for ourselves. Once we scored those three tries, our attack was all over the shop and midway through the second half I thought we were ready to break.
“But full credit to the guys for the way they were able to find an extra gear. That win was based on pure effort and want to win.
“Teams without character don’t win those games so to be able to grind out a win like that is very pleasing and it is only going to give us a bit more belief.
“We haven’t set a goal of top four, we’ve set ourselves a goal of winning our first three games and this was the first.
“Warrington won so we’re probably a bit further off making the top four.”
Woolford revealed that Giants second rower Alex Mellor, who scored one try while Darnell McIntosh got the other two, was taken to hospital with a suspected broken jaw.
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook says his team’s defeat was a legacy of their Challenge Cup exit.
The Super League leaders began as they left off in the semi-final against Catalans Dragons last Sunday, falling 16-0 behind to a lively Giants outfit, and, although they rallied in the final hour, it was not enough to stave off another shock defeat.
“There were too many tired bodies, too many guys couldn’t get up for it,” Holbrook said.
“Sunday’s game was always going to knock us around. We came with the right intentions but there are a lot of mentally and physically tired boys and that’s when you make dumb errors.
“Things aren’t going our way at the moment but we’ve got to keep working hard and bounce back next week.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Huddersfield, who deserved to win. I didn’t think they looked that great in the second half but they didn’t need to.”
Holbrook said too many of his men were well below their best and one of them was clearly full-back Ben Barba, who twice dropped high kicks from Danny Brough in the opening quarter which gave Huddersfield the position to work winger Darnell McIntosh over for two tries.
Barba is the subject of renewed speculation over his future and Holbrook hinted that a decision could be made in the next fortnight.
“There obviously continues to be a lot of talk and that will be ongoing,” Holbrook said. “I know the club is looking at all that stuff at the moment and in the next couple of weeks we’ll know how it’s going.”
Holbrook also confirmed that former captain Jon Wilkin will play on in 2019, even though it will not be for St Helens.
The ex-England forward revealed this week that he is moving on at the end of the season and Holbrook says he came to a joint decision with the player.
“Jon’s been fantastic for 16 years,” he said. “It looks like he will play on which is great, he’s still good enough.
“There is no big drama. We’ve got to make decisions on the future, we’re both looking to plan for next year. We had a chat and he was alright about it.”