JAMIE SHAUL continued his prolific form for Hull FC as their strive for Super League’s summit continued last night but Huddersfield Giants’ misery at the other end worsened again.
Firstly, the Black and Whites have now won five successive games, a brace from elusive full-back Shaul taking his tally to eight in 10 matches this term, and they sit just two points behind leaders Warrington Wolves.
But their beleaguered opponents, embarrassed at times, are undoubtedly in dire straits and head coach Paul Anderson must be under intense pressure this morning as the competition’s bottom club slipped to a ninth defeat from 10 outings.
In fairness, Huddersfield were again competitive for large parts but that is not enough and the second half sin-binning of Danny Brough, their maverick stand-off who lost the captaincy earlier this season, proved critical.
He said something out of turn to referee Robert Hicks after Danny Houghton slid onto Marc Sneyd’s dinked grubber to essentially put Hull 24-16 ahead in the 55th minute.
By the time Brough returned, his side were 36-16 down. Down and out.
As Huddersfield’s season continues to splutter, there has been speculation the 33-year-old could be set for a return to Hull, where he famously helped win the Challenge Cup in 2005.
Indeed, FC chairman Adam Pearson used his programme notes to make reference to this stating “as fas we’re all concerned Danny is a contracted player to Huddersfield Giants and that is where it starts and end” which did little to quash those rumours.
In fairness, Pearson must be happy with his current half-back Sneyd who continued his recent fine form, backing up his drop-goal winner at St Helens with another accomplished display including creating Shaul’s first-half try with a clever reverse grubber.
Hull also saw centre Kirk Yeaman celebrate his 350th game for the East Yorkshire club but Huddersfield should actually have been level at the break.
However, Brough missed the simple conversion of his own 37th-minute try so, instead, they trailed 18-16. There was plenty in attack to suggest they could create enough to force a win but, again, as has too often been the case this term, their defence was far too slack at times.
The perfect illustration of this was when they conceded a pointless penalty via Sam Rapira messing around at the play-the-ball in the 21st minute.
Two tackles later, prop Liam Watts – in his 100th appearance for Hull – charged back blind behind a ruck in standard fashion only to be amazed as his obvious dummy left Joe Wardle flailing, opening up a clear 15m surge to the line.
That allowed Sneyd to level at 12-12 but Huddersfield’s defence had been similarly feeble when gifting Josh Bowden the game’s opening score inside six minutes.
The prop was standing still when he received possession barely 10m out but still mustered up enough momentum to run over Ukuma Ta’ai.
Wardle did run a good line to score from Brough’s pass on 12 minutes, Brough slotting the first of only two successful conversions.
Five minutes later they were again when centre Aaron Murphy was put into space down the left and exchanged passes with new arrival Gene Ormsby, the winger making his debut after joining on loan from Warrington earlier this week.
After Wardle was held up by Shaul and Eorl Crabtree stretched out for the line but lost the ball, Giants’ luck ran out further when a clear Murphy was pulled back for a forward pass from Brough.
Shaul scored in the next set and, though Brough crossed himself with a forceful drive over the Hull full-back, they were never able to get back into it.
During his cooling-off period, Curtis Naughton showed great skill to collect Mahe Fonua’s swift pass, beat Leroy Cudjoe and find Shaul for his second.
Then, to highlight crumbling Huddersfield’s woe, even the normally iron-like England winger Jermaine McGillvary was shrugged off as Naughton scored himself.
McGillvray atoned for that with a try, his tenth of the year, but Sneyd had the final word with a drop-goal to add to his 100 per cent conversion record.
Hull lost stand-off Carlos Tuimavave in the warm-up, so had forward Dean Hadley lining up at six with Fetului Talanoa coming onto the bench.
Hull FC: Shaul; Michaels, Fonua, Yeaman, Naughton; Hadley, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Manu, Pritchard, Bowden. Substitutes: Paleaaesina, Green, Thompson, Talanoa.
Huddersfield Giants: Brierley; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Murphy, Ormsby; Brough, Connor; Rapira, Hinchcliffe, Huby, Wardle, Ta’ai, Lawrence. Substitutes: Crabtree, Patrick, Leeming, Roberts.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).