Hat-trick delight is doused by narrow defeat for the Huddersfield Giants

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HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS took a gamble by plucking a player out of the Championship but Ryan Brierley is justifying their faith. Dave Craven reports.

IN the aftermath of a compelling game, Huddersfield Giants’ Ryan Brierley had more reason than most to admit their unlucky defeat at Wigan Warriors was “emotional.”

Huddersfields Ryan Brierley goes over for his second try against Wigan at the DW Stadium.

Huddersfields Ryan Brierley goes over for his second try against Wigan at the DW Stadium.

The 24-year-old had not only just crossed for his first Super League try but scored a hat-trick on Thursday as he started to show just why the club brought him in from Championship Leigh Centurions on a long-term deal last month.

There had been some doubts as to whether Brierley – a prolific scrum-half in the second tier but switched to full-back following his high-profile move – had what it takes to cut it at the elite level.

With his pace and awareness (two tries came via support play and another after accelerating onto Danny Brough’s grubber) it is clear he has some fine attributes but ultimately Huddersfield, already bottom, lost again.

“It was certainly disappointing,” said Brierley after the 26-19 defeat.

“We’ll take a lot of confidence from the performance and, hopefully, build on this as we’ve some important games coming up.

“But it was tough to take. It was a bit of an emotional game; to score your first hat-trick against a top team like Wigan is pretty special. But we play rugby to win games and we’ve not done that.”

Huddersfield led 18-12 going into the final quarter after Brierley, who scored 37 tries for Leigh last term and 133 in 125 games for his former club, had touched down for his third.

They were undone in dramatic circumstances, Aaron Murphy becoming their second player to be yellow-carded and Matty Smith’s 78th-minute drop goal eventually proving the difference before Dan Sarginson compounded the misery in the final seconds.

Brierley conceded: “Being down to 12 men killed us – twice.It’s hard enough with 13 but the boys really dug in for each other and it’s good to be a part of that. Unfortunately, in the last five minutes or so, there were some smart plays from Matty Smith and he’s always going to hurt you.

“We’ll dust ourselves down ready to go again against Leeds on Friday.”

Having earned his reputation as a No 7, does Brierley see his long-term future as full-back?

With Kyle Wood and Jamie Ellis, who will be fit again soon, alongside talisman Brough, coach Paul Anderson certainly has ample options in the half-back role.

Brierley is filling in at No 1 with Scott Grix sidelined until later next month, and it is easy to see, with his attacking quality at least, why that may be considered his best chance of success.

“I don’t really know,” was his honest answer.

“Obviously, Paul Anderson says my attributes suit that position.

“I’ve always been a half-back but, for me, if I’m learning more positions, it’s more strings to my bow. It is tough at full-back, tougher than I thought it would be. But I’m loving every minute of it. Technically and tactically, it’s a very difficult position to grasp but I am only going to get more comfortable the more games I play there.

“Paul Anderson has put a lot of faith in me and the biggest thing for me is just to be reliable.

“It’s not about the fancy tries or fancy plays; it’s just about being safe and reliable and helping my team-mates trust me.

“If I can get that sorted then the tries and fancy plays will come off the back of that and, hopefully, I can get over the whitewash a few more times before the season closes out.”

Preston-born Brierley, who started out in Castleford’s reserve side before moving to Leigh in 2012, is confident he can hone his game.

“With my own performance, I want to fix a few things up and just get better,” he added.

“I’ve got a great team and coaching environment to allow me to get better and I want to keep learning and keep improving.

“It’s weird; every game is massive playing places like the KC and DW as well as the John Smith’s, then facing Catalans as well and teams like that.

“It’s all massive for me and I’m loving every minute. I’m fulfilling my dream every single day; it was my life ambition to become a Super League player so I’m very grateful to Huddersfield and Paul Anderson for allowing me to do that.”