ON A day when New York and Ottawa took a significant step closer towards entering the Rugby Football League it was a player from Halifax - the English version - who proved the unlikely hero during a game, fittingly, played at the sport’s birthplace.
It is not often Alex Mellor, the former Bradford Bulls second-row, scores a hat-trick of tries but he did tonight to help edge his Huddersfield Giants to a hard-earned victory over high-flying Castleford Tigers.
It was at a meeting further along the M62 at Salford earlier in the afternoon, after listening to both presentations from the North American consortiums, that Championship and League 1 clubs were in “principle supportive, by a comfortable majority” of allowing New York and Ottawa into the competition.
The RFL board, of course, has the final say but it is increasingly likely teams from Canada’s capital city and The Big Apple will be following Toronto Wolfpack’s path into the competition.
For now, though, more familiar names continue to do battle in what is an increasingly unpredictable Super League.
Improving Huddersfield, who lost out by the narrowest of margins to Wakefield Trinity last week, had to fight tooth and nail for this victory, a third in four games, but few could say it was not merited.
With the likes of Suaia Matagi and Seb Ikahihifo setting fine leads up front, they matched Castleford throughout, their opponents who lost prop Grant Millington to a leg injury following the very first carry of the game.
Huddersfield’s defensive spirit was epitomized in the 78th minute when, protecting a two point lead after Mellor’s third try eight minutes earlier, Adam O’Brien prevented Adam Milner from grounding the ball.
England international Milner, perhaps in his frustration knowing his side were destined for a fourth loss in six games, was sin-binned for aiming a headbutt at the grounded Giants replacement and their last chance of sneaking a victory was gone.
Castleford had actually opened the scoring after just 94 seconds, Greg Eden not quite believing his luck as he picked off a pass from Huddersfield hooker Kruise Leeming about 60m out and enjoyed almost a stroll down his left touchline.
Peter Mata’utia converted but it was not long before the hosts levelled.
Castleford captain Michael Shenton was too high on Matagi, the Giants prop who then, from the penalty, created the space in midfield for Lee Gaskell, the returning stand-off, to get on the outside of Jesse Sene-Lefao on his way to sending Mellor over.
Gaskell should have scored directly afterwards, too, when, after his side had forced a drop-out, he exposed another gap in the visiting defence to ease over.
It was ruled out, though, by the video referee Robert Hicks for one of those inane obstructions, a rule that needs to change sharpish to make the sport more entertaining for the current viewing public let alone any potential new audiences in North America.
A rule exchange could be initiated; getting rid of that and, instead, enforcing a new one whereby anyone deliberately throwing a pass at a prone defender in the ruck is penalised.
Currently, it goes the other way and, for the second week running, Leeming ‘earned’ a penalty with the tactic.
His side almost scored in the next set but Mike McMeeken - Castleford’s England second-row fit again for the first time since the opening day of the season - just denied his former team-mate Joe Wardle before the line.
McMeeken would repeat the feat in the second half, too, just as Wardle seemed certain to score.
Mata'utia slotted the first of his three penalties and Jake Trueman and McMeeken both went close although Huddersfield blew a chance of their own when Jermaine McGillvary was just denied in the corner on the half-time hooter.
Still, they did cross within just 59 seconds of the second half as Matt Frawley ushered Mellor through a gaping hole for McIntosh to improve.
The hosts’ discipline fell, though, and after being put on a team warning, Castleford prop Matt Cook barged over from close range for Mata’utia to put them 14-12 ahead.
McIntosh added two penalties, only for Mata’utia to do likewise, but Mellor had the last word after McIntosh sent McGillvary haring away in the 70th minute.
Meanwhile, Giants half-back Izaac Farrell, 21, has joined Workington Town on a season-long loan.
Huddersfield Giants: McIntosh; McGillvary, Turner, Jake Wardle, Uate; Gaskell, Frawley; Ta’ai, Leeming, Matagi, Joe Wardle, Mellor, Murphy. Substitutes: O’Brien, Roberts, Ikahihifo, Hewitt.
Castleford Tigers: Turner; Clare, Minikin, Shenton, Eden; Trueman, Mata’utia; Watts, Milner, Millington, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Moors. Substitutes: Cook, Clark, O’Neill, Smith.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).