WITH an interval scoreline of 48-2, Huddersfield Giants having utterly out-played part-timers Batley Bulldogs, you sensed this was further evidence for those critics who feel the Qualifiers concept is doomed.
They may have a point, but the manner in which Batley transformed their own performance in the second period pointed at what Championship clubs truly can do when they get it right.
John Kear’s side overcame an embarrassing first 40 minutes to push on and play some fine football, scoring five tries in the second period against their Super League foes in what became a slightly bizarre contest.
It was, of course, not enough to spring a surprise result but it certainly gave Rick Stone, Huddersfield’s Australian coach, plenty of food for thought.
This West Yorkshire derby win should go a long way to helping the Giants secure their place in Super League for 2017 but Stone, who took over the relegation-threatened outfit last month, knows improvement is needed.
“I don’t think we managed the second half as well as we could,” he admitted, especially Aaron Murphy, the usually reliable winger who gifted Batley two scores in comical style when trying to deal with kicks.
“Defensively we’ve got to show some more resolve; our boys showed at the moment where they are at. They are a little bit brittle still and they have got to get tougher defensively.
“It was pretty unique playing at a ground like this and I’m happy to win but I wouldn’t be comfortable walking away saying we’re happy with that performance.”
It would be easy to suggest Huddersfield, for whom half-back Ryan Brierley scored a hat-trick while continuing to deputise for the banned Danny Brough, felt the job was done at half-time.
Stone conceded: “The scoreboard said that but the opposition didn’t think so the way they came out in second half.
“They definitely had a real good crack, completed 19 out of 22 sets and they obviously know the ground well and played to the local conditions.
“We’re still a work in progress.”
Batley – whose players had vowed to pay for their supporters’ travel costs in their next away game having been embarrassed 76-16 at Championship rivals London Broncos the previous week – actually took the lead.
However, it was only by virtue of a third-minute Dom Brambani penalty and it only lasted for three minutes.
Leroy Cudjoe, the England centre, dummied his way over far too easily for the first of Huddersfield’s nine first-half tries.
Jamie Ellis then sent out a long pass that bounced for Gene Ormsby to finish.
Briefly, Batley had a bit of a crack back when Huddersfield full-back Jake Connor spilled for a second time but it amounted to nothing.
Instead, Ryan Hinchcliffe, the Giants’ captain, eased clear from halfway to send Eorl Crabtree over in the 19th minute.
It set up a ruthless spell of seven tries in just 18 minutes as Stone’s side, going down Mount Pleasant’s famous slope, tore their opponents apart.
In the next set, under no pressure, Batley’s former Huddersfield winger Alex Brown, on his 200th career appearance, spilled Ellis’s steepling kick to gift Tom Symonds a score.
Hull FC-bound Connor atoned for his earlier mistakes by slicing them open again before Ellis’s 40/20 created position for the scrum-half to usher Symonds in for his second with a neat pass.
Joe Wardle exposed more meek defence to score and then Connor raced clear from Sam Rapira’s short pass for Brierley to support up the middle.
Brierley did likewise for his second as Ellis this time made the line-break, tagging on the fifth of his six goals for a 48-2 lead.
However, the hosts were clearly revived in the second period, making the most of the slope to apply early pressure and, even though that did not immediately yield rewards, stayed patient.
They finally earned some reward with a try for Sean Squires as he climbed highest to take Brambani’s hanging kick in the 54th minute.
When full-back Dave Scott, Batley’s most dangerous player, weaved through for a classy try in the next set, the home support was suddenly revived, too.
Cudjoe restored some order by stepping through on 61 minutes but Batley were not deterred, Brad Day making a storming break that led to Squires’s second, Murphy making a hash of Brambani’s latest kick.
As the home side pushed harder, one pass did go to ground allowing Brierley to pounce and race 80m but it was Kear’s side who finished strongest, adding two more tries in the final three minutes.
Centre Chris Ulugia muscled his way over and Scott got his second when Murphy endured a comedy moment trying to deal with Brown’s hacked on kick.
Batley Bulldogs: Scott; Reittie, Squires, Ulugia, Brown; Walker, Brambani; Hirst, Leak, Rowe, Day, Bretherton, Brown. Substitutes: Davey, Lillycrop, Gledhill, Harrison.
Huddersfield Giants: Connor; Ormsby, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy; Brierley, Ellis; Crabtree, Hinchcliffe, Huby, Symonds, Lawrence, Ta’ai. Substitutes: Wood, Roberts, Ikahihifo, Rapira.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury)