ANOTHER afternoon of frustration for Paul Anderson yet, still, Huddersfield Giants can cling onto some positives.
They looked in dire straits yesterday when Jamie Shaul’s converted try saw a Hull FC side, with nothing other than pride to play for, leading 18-4 after just 27 minutes.
Huddersfield’s hopes of a top-four finish were disappearing fast with every irritating, misplaced pass.
However, as has so often been the case this year for the reigning League Leaders’ Shield holders, they were able to rescue themselves from a perilous state.
A purple patch of four tries in 13 minutes around the hour mark did the trick, stand-off Danny Brough inevitably stepping up as Jodie Broughton, Brett Ferres, Anthony Mullally and Jermaine McGillvary all contributed.
The win leaves them fifth but if they defeat leaders St Helens here in Friday’s last regular round they will be guaranteed at least fourth and, therefore, two cracks at the play-offs.
On this patchy form, they may need them both and head coach Anderson, understandably, remains perturbed.
Hull had plenty suffering with a stomach bug that saw Richard Horne and Setaimata Sa pull out and 17-year-old Harry Tyson-Wilson debut, the visitors thankful the teenage scrum-half was already in the vicinity having coached West Hull Under-14s to a National Cup final.
Another 17-year-old – centre Jack Logan – made only his second appearance and Anderson said: “I think when we saw that team sheet we thought ‘there’s no Horne, that and the other’ and made a decision to do just enough to be okay.
“After about 30 minutes we then made a decision to play.
“The problem with that performance is if you keep taking the attitude that you can just turn it on to win the game, it’s going to bite you.
“I can’t allow that to keep going. We’ve got some challenges ahead and a Saints team coming here on Friday who will treat it as a cup final as they need to win to get some silverware (League Leaders’ Shield).
“But we’re still on track to finish top four.”
While the hosts had been erratic and profligate, Hull proved purposeful and almost error-free to reap the rewards.
Danny Houghton, in his 200th appearance for the club, set them off after just seven minutes when full-back Jake Connor, deputising for the injured Scott Grix, failed to deal with Jordan Rankin’s steepling kick.
Huddersfield made a swift response. Jermaine McGillvary’s storming run, swatting off defenders, looked like bringing a try-of-the-season contender only for Shaul to somehow hold up the bullocking winger.
Luke Robinson did eventually slip Connor through a gap from 15m for his first but Brough missed the simple conversion.
Unusually, the Scotland captain would finish with just three successes from eight attempts.
Hull, who had vanquished derby foes Hull KR 28-0 in their last outing, reacted well.
Houghton found Aaron Heremaia with a lovely chip into space in front of the Huddersfield posts for their second, quickly added to in the next set when the excellent stand-off Rankin broke from deep and easily rounded Connor before finding Shaul in support, Rankin improving them all for that impressive advantage.
Referee Phil Bentham finally started awarding penalties for interference, however, and that twice allowed Huddersfield the possession they required for the two tries that got them back into the game before half-time.
Firstly, David Faiumu embarrassed Hull by dummying over from acting-half close in and then Robinson switched play to find Brough whose cute inside pass had youngster Connor arrowing in for his second.
Brough’s inaccuracy with the boot, though, left them short at the break and Hull extended their lead when Jordan Thompson cut a perfect line to race onto Rankin’s short pass and angle over from 35m in the 51st minute.
That should have given the visitors the confidence needed to push on but many of the problems that have slowed them all year returned to haunt them again.
Rankin tried keeping a play alive but only served to hand over to Craig Kopczak, the Huddersfield prop who showed great awareness immediately to find Brough, the captain scampering 50m up through the broken field for Broughton to add a fine finish beating Tom Lineham on the outside.
That started the spree; next Shaul prevented a Brough 40/20 only to then spill in the tackle and gift Ferres a walk-in, Eorl Crabtree rumbled close to get his fellow prop Mullally over and then – after Houghton squandered possession in a rare attacking chance – Robinson’s perfect pass unleashed Aaron Murphy for McGillvary to do the damage. Gareth Ellis grabbed one back from Houghton’s grubber which, with Brough’s kicking problems, brought it back to 34-28 to set up a potential classic finish.
However, Brough showed all his cool demeanour by ignoring a kickable penalty, instead throwing out a long pass that Lineham almost intercepted in the penultimate minute.
The Hull winger managed only to get his fingertips too it, so Broughton collected to add his second try. Nervy for the rest, nonetheless.
Huddersfield Giants: Connor; McGillvary, Murphy, Wardle, Broughton; Brough, Robinson; Crabtree, Lunt, Mullally, Ferres, Patrick, Bailey. Substitutes: Kopczak, Faiumu, Lawrence, Ta’ai.
Hull FC: Shaul; Lineham, Yeaman, Logan, Talanoa; Rankin, Heremaia; Watts, Houghton, Bowden, Ellis, Thompson, Westerman. Substitutes: Tyson-Wilson, Green, Paea, Hadley.
Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).