Huddersfield Giants 12 Wigan Warriors 32
DISAPPOINTING Huddersfield Giants failed in their attempt to usurp Super League leaders Wigan Warriors last night but the damage could have been so much worse.
It was only due to Josh Charnley’s errant goal-kicking that the West Yorkshire club were not finished off far sooner by opponents who bettered the filthy conditions to secure a ninth successive win.
The ex-Hull KR winger scored two of Wigan’s seven tries to stretch out as the country’s leading scorer with 21 but, in Pat Richards’s continued absence, missed all four conversion attempts.
That meant Huddersfield were somehow still in it even after Liam Farrell’s try put the impressive visitors 26-12 ahead on 56 minutes.
The most worrying aspect for Giants coach Nathan Brown must have been his side’s subsequent inability to make the most of that final quarter.
If they are to challenge for the title – they have now lost successive league games and are two points behind Wigan – they will realise they must be more competitive in such conditions.
However, for all Huddersfield’s failure to respond, their visitors, with Sean O’Loughlin and Thomas Leuluai directing, were mightily tight and disciplined in their approach and nothing should be taken away from their display.
Brown had said he felt his side could now challenge in the big games but it seems there is still plenty of improvement to be made.
Fortunately, in reality, nothing is won on a rain-sodden May evening and they do have time to tinker further before the mid-July Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington and the business end of the league season.
Today is the 50th anniversary of their last league triumph and the manner of their first half performance suggested they are not too far away from ending that long wait.
They were tough in the middle, showed plenty of adventure and created ample chances, but were made to pay for a couple of lax moments.
Brown, who surprisingly switched second-row Jason Chan to centre in order to facilitate David Fa’alogo’s return, saw a chance squandered inside the opening seconds when nervous Leroy Cudjoe failed to capitalise fully on Danny Brough’s bold chip and chase.
Kevin Brown also spilled with the line gaping and it was no surprise Brough attempted a long-range penalty just to try to get off the mark.
That fell wide but Jermaine McGillvary made no mistake when Luke Robinson’s vision spotted a chink on Wigan’s short side and Cudjoe put his winger over for his seventh try of the season.
Brough improved but Charnley – pushing hard to make an England debut against the Exiles next month – quickly got on the end of Darrell Goulding’s exquisite final pass to hit straight back.
Goulding was also to the fore with an exemplary flick pass which dissected Huddersfield for Charnley’s second towards the end of the half while, in between, Sam Tomkins typically got in on the act.
Huddersfield’s David Faiumu had to be gingerly led off just moments after coming on following a sickening clash of heads with fellow New Zealander Jeff Lima and that preceded the try.
Wigan, who engineered four drop-outs in the first half alone, found Tomkins in a little space and his splendid footwork just caught Scott Grix off-guard, allowing him to dart over.
Huddersfield’s Dale Ferguson should have scored but spilled when trying to force his way over while Brown’s kick almost saw the returning Luke George prosper.
So, the hosts trailed just 12-6 at the break and they levelled when Greg Eden latched onto a brilliant inside ball from Scott Grix soon after the re-start.
However, the try-scorer immediately made a real hash of Brett Finch’s kick to gift George Carmont an easy score.
It proved crucial as Wigan – with the charging Gareth Hock increasingly prevalent – never looked back.
Farrell got the next score after exposing some weak line defence and Huddersfield simply had no answer.
Carmont added his second after a lovely assist from Hock, who is also likely to be in the watching Steve McNamara’s England plans.
Controversial hooker Scott Moore made his first Super League appearance since returning to Huddersfield off the bench but he could do little to change the tide.
Wigan prop Jeff Lima finished things off in the penultimate minute when he easily charged over from close range, taking Lee Gilmour and Brown with him.
Tomkins added the kick but, by then, it was irrelevant.
Huddersfield Giants: Eden, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Chan, George, Brough, Grix, Crabtree, Robinson, Fa’alogo, Lawrence, Gilmour, Brown. Substitutes: Faiumu, Patrick, Ferguson, Moore.
Wigan Warriors: S Tomkins, Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Gelling, Finch, Leuluai, Dudson, McIlorum, Mossop, Hansen, Hock, O’Loughlin. Substitutes: Lima, Farrell, Tuson, Crosby.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).