SALFORD is becoming a happy hunting ground for Huddersfield Giants head coach Simon Woolford.
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You might not have thought that if in earshot of his colourful language when Lee Gaskell hit a post with the simplest of conversion attempts last night.
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However, in the end, that did not matter as – with Tom Holmes running the show on debut – the West Yorkshire side pulled clear of their opponents to gain a crucial first win in five games.
It was here 14 months ago that, fresh off the plane from Australia, Woolford watched his side come from behind to deliver a 24-16 win that helped continue the revival that saw them rise from the foot of the table into the top-eight.
Huddersfield repeated the feat last night, recovering from an early deficit to eventually secure a victory they so badly needed to move off joint-bottom.
Holmes, the 23-year-old who spent last year at Featherstone after leaving Castleford, finally got chance to shine in Huddersfield colours and duly took his chance with three try assists.
He is only recently back from a knee reconstruction but, after being handed the job of controlling Giants ahead of Australian signing Matt Frawley, he did not disappoint.
Neither did Olly Wilson, the England Academy prop brought from Bradford Bulls in April who continuously drove into Salford and looked anything but a raw, teenage front-row.
Huddersfield, missing injured captain Leroy Cudjoe and Jordan Turner at centre, needed to perform after a poor defeat at Wakefield Trinity on Friday and matters so close at the bottom.
They were only 14-12 ahead approaching the hour mark but Kruise Leeming, as he so often does, produced a wonderful solo score to stretch the narrow lead.
Gaskell should have converted but missed – at that point, there had only been one successful conversion from seven attempts between the two sides – leaving the visitors still on edge and Woolford furious.
But then Holmes’s perfect pass soon sent Ukuma Ta’ai through a gap and, with Darnell McIntosh taking over kicking duties, Huddersfield pushed on.
Holmes ran it on the last next to give young Jake Wardle – another polished performer – space to slip former Kiwi Krisnan Inu and get over.
Tyrone McCarthy replied but Gaskell atoned and broke clear for McIntosh – playing centre with teenager Louis Senior switched to full-back – to score his second try at the death.
Things started badly for Huddersfield who conceded after just three minutes when Innes Senior spilled to gift Salford an early chance. Still, aside from the youngster’s mistake, his team-mates should still have protected their line better thereafter.
Instead, Lee Gaskell, Alex Mellor and Seb Ikahihifo could all only manage poor contact on McCarthy, the former Hull KR loose forward who was allowed to stretch over on his 100th Super League appearance.
At least Inu missed the simple conversion attempt but it must have been alarming for Woolford who all week had been espousing the need for improved effort from his side.
The game was held up for a long period as Adam O’Brien received treatment after getting his head in the wrong place when trying to stop the brute force of Ben Nakubuwai in the ninth minute.
The Huddersfield hooker, who has been one of the club’s better players this term, was stretchered off but, thankfully, was reported to be up and talking in the dressing room afterwards.
The diminutive Holmes may look an easy target which is why Inu must have thought he had scored when charging at him in the 14th minute.
However, the former Castleford player did wonderfully to deny his opponent grounding the ball, demonstrating the desire Woolford knew he and Wilson would bring on debut.
Unfortunately, though, the hosts forced a drop-out and, from there, Tui Lolohea sent out a lovely long pass that bemused Huddersfield’s right edge and allowed Ken Sio to cross.
When Paul Clough became the next Giants player to fumble, it looked like Salford – looking far quicker, sharper and stronger – could take control.
However, the visitors found a way to forge their way back into the contest with a rare excursion into their opponents’ 20. Matty English bundled over from close range in the 28th minute, persuading referee Robert Hicks that he seemed to have done enough.
It was referred to video official Ben Thaler as a ‘try’ but replays offered no evidence he had got to the line. Nor that he had not. A try was awarded, much to the chagrin of Salford fans. Gaskell improved and when Sio dropped his high kick seven minutes later, Giants took the lead.
Holmes provided the initial killer ball but then Louis Senior did well coming into the line and furnishing his twin brother Innes with the try.
Gaskell could not convert but a 10-8 interval advantage was excellent considering where they had been initially.
Holmes’s kick at the start of the second period saw McIntosh leap brilliantly for his first try.
Kris Welham got over after Jermaine McGillvary messed up Hastings’s grubber but they were then taken apart as Giants turned on the style.
Salford Red Devils: Evalds; Johnson, Inu, Welham, Sio; Lolohea, Hastings; Nakubuwai, Lussick, Dudson, Jones, Lannon, McCarthy. Substitutes: Flanagan, Tomkins, Bibby, Burke.
Huddersfield Giants: L Senior; McGillvary, McIntosh, Jacob Wardle, I Senior; Gaskell, Holmes; Clough, O’Brien, Ikahihifo, Ta’ai, Mellor, Murphy. Substitutes: Leeming, English, Wilson, Lawrence.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).