HUDDERSFIELD Rugby Union Club started their North I campaign with a hard-fought win.
In doing so, the defeat for Sheffield Tigers took the shine off what was meant to be a momentous occasion for the South Yorkshire side.
Following two promotions in the last three seasons, this is the first time Sheffield have played at such a high level.
Meanwhile, after finishing fourth in the North I table last time around, Huddersfield’s director of rugby, Mark Sowerby, said he was pleased with the win.
“It’s a tremendous start to the season.
“Right from the beginning we were on top of them in defence and didn’t really give them a chance,” explained Sowerby.
“We then kept the scoreboard ticking over and eventually in the second half they ran out of legs and steam.”
Chris Johnson, an instrumental figure last season, and who scored all his side’s points in their friendly against Morley 17 days ago, put Huddersfield ahead with a penalty kick.
But, after six minutes, Sheffield pulled the scores back level through Zachary Hill.
The home side again took the lead when, for the game’s first try, Mark Whitehead brushed off oncoming challenges to cross the line. Johnson converted.
On 20 minutes, stand-off Johnson continued his perfect kicking record for the afternoon by powering the ball over from straight in front of the posts.
Eager not to be outperformed by his opposite number, Sheffield’s Hill successfully converted a penalty lon 24 minutes to continue his own faultless kicking record.
In an excellent passing movement involving no less than a six-man exchange, Huddersfield then scored their second try.
James Swift eventually received the ball out wide and raced passed the visitors’ back-line to touch down but Johnson failed to convert.
Before half time, Hill converted another penalty but Johnson missed with two further attempts making the score 18-9 at the break.
In what was turning out to be a lively fast-paced encounter, following a third failed penalty-kick attempt, Johnson made amends on 53 and 55 minutes after Koleni Mu was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Shortly afterwards, both Alexander Drage (dissent) and Douglas Trivella (professional foul) were also sent to the sin-bin – leaving Sheffield temporarily with only 12 men on the field.
Yet, despite the player advantage, Huddersfield failed to extend their lead but nevertheless ended the game with a fine victory.
In terms of his hopes for the season, Sowerby said he wants to gain promotion.
“Last season we finished fourth and a couple of good teams went of the league,” he said.
“So, if you go just by numbers we should finish second this year although we would like to win the league to gain promotion.
“Off the back of that, we know that there are some good teams we’ll be coming up against.
“Commitment alone will not win this league and we realise that we need to add a bit more polish to what we do.
“For example, in this game Sheffield had a spell where they were down by three players and we failed to score and we could have grabbed a couple of converted tries.
“But, there were a lot of positives to take: Mark Whitehead had a superb game and Chris Johnson’s kicking was good.
“We didn’t do anything too fancy and had a good run out for the first game of the season.”
Huddersfield: Howard, Gough, Stringwell, Rhodes, Pratt, Hinchliff, Whitehead, Sowerby, Clayton, Johnson, Shaw, Mortimore, Paxman, Swift, McLaren. Subs: McPhail, Harris, Sharrock.
Sheffield Tigers: Mu, Price, Toews, Joel, Barnes, Pearson, Holes, Hanekom, Drage, Hill, Miller, Trivella, Evans, Johnstone, Storey. Subs: Barrett, Norris, Scheinkonig.
Referee: Kevin Warwick (Fleetwood).