IT is a sign of the standards Huddersfield Giants have set that they are distinctly unhappy with themselves ahead of tomorrow’s game with Catalan Dragons.
Paul Anderson’s side enter the encounter having thrashed Bradford Bulls 52-26 on Sunday, won 10 of their of previous 13 fixtures and still, mathematically at least, having a chance of retaining the League Leaders’ Shield they famously won last year.
However, according to Jermaine McGillvary, their leading try-scorer, the West Yorkshire club remain far from their optimum level and he feels there is a very real danger their French visitors will capitalise if there is no improvement tomorrow.
Even the victory over Bradford, which relegated their derby rivals, was fitful given they only led by six points early in the second period after some glaring initial errors while it ended a mini-slump after Huddersfield had slipped up in their previous games versus Castleford Tigers and Salford Red Devils.
Catalan will close to within just a point of them in sixth place if they complete a league double at John Smith’s Stadium and any Huddersfield hopes of chasing down the leaders will be gone.
Instead, they may be left more concerned about actually securing a top-four spot instead.
“Against Bradford, we started off testing the waters like we have the last couple of weeks,” McGillvary told The Yorkshire Post.
“That is not good enough for a team like us if we want to get to that next level. We can take the positive – we got the win – but we need to fix up some areas as, coming up against good teams with the amount of ball we dropped, we could easily have lost.
“Catalan beat Wakefield easily last week and are an outstanding team from one to 17. It’s an amazing squad they have there.
“If we turn up like we did on Sunday, we will get beat. It’s that simple. You cannot have too many errors against a team like Catalan.
“They love to throw the ball around, are skilful and have a strong set of forwards so it’s going to be a tough game. We have to fix up, learn and get better.”
The humidity seemed a factor last week with players from both sides looking jaded early on during a sweltering afternoon.
But McGillvary, 26, countered: “That’s an excuse. It was perfect playing conditions. People moan when it’s raining or it’s too hot, so what is the perfect weather?
“It’s the same for both sides and there was no excuse for dropping so much ball.
“Sometimes our energy wasn’t good enough either. We’re fit players. Maybe our attitude wasn’t right at times. In spells, we played well but we need to pick up against Catalans, a better team.”
He scored a hat-trick against Bradford to mark his 150th game for his home-town club in style.
Admittedly, they were generally put on a plate for him by England centre Leroy Cudjoe, with whom he has developed such a productive understanding.
McGillvary, who now has 15 in 18 games this term, said: “I think most of my tries throughout my career have been walkovers.
“I’ll gladly take them all day but my main job, I think, is as a yardage player, backing up in our half to help the forwards get on the front foot. That’s what I base my game around. It doesn’t matter whether the tries come 80 metres out or from two.”
Certainly, the 26-year-old’s powerful carries from kick returns or early in the set are a major part of Huddersfield’s tactics.
It is no surprise his 20 clean breaks so far sees him trail just Wigan Warriors’ Joe Burgess (24) and Castleford’s Daryl Clark (22) ahead of this round.
Huddersfield will need to get on the front foot early tomorrow as they know only too well what damage Catalan, who destroyed in-form Wakefield 40-6, can do if given any incentive.
Anderson’s side trailed 24-0 after barely an hour at Perpignan in March before three late tries made a more respectable 30-14.
Huddersfield have full-back Scott Grix returning from a groin strain, while hooker Kruise Leeming is added to the squad.