Giants retain swagger as George continues to shine

STUNNING winger Luke George scored his third hat-trick of the season to send Huddersfield Gianst two points clear at the top of Stobart Super League.

Castleford Tigers’ coach Ian Millward, who returned to work this week after a month’s compassionate leave, rang the changes in an attempt to halt his side’s five-match losing run but they were run ragged by a rampant Giants outfit who already are starting to look genuine Grand Final contenders.

Huddersfield ran in eight tries, three of them while down to 12 men through the sin-binning of Jason Chan, with George leading the way with some exceptional finishing to take his try tally for the season to nine in just six matches.

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George made it a nightmare debut for 20-year-old winger James Clare, one of five new faces brought in by Millward, who retained only six players in the starting line-up from the side that lost 42-16 to London.

Yet the early warning signs were in evidence for the visitors, with second-row Michael Lawrence held up over the Castleford line after full-back Richard Owen had failed to deal with the first of a series of clever kicks from Danny Brough.

George got the scoreboard ticking over on 11 minutes when he was released by Lawrence and regathered his own kick to score his first try.

It was all too easy for the Giants as Scott Grix burst clear to send former Castleford full-back Greg Eden over before centre Joe Wardle crashed through some poor defence for Huddersfield’s third try on 22 minutes.

That was the signal for Millward to send on all four of his substitutes and the changes initially had the desired effect as the Tigers, with Rangi Chase pulling the strings, put the home defence under pressure.

A string of penalties enabled Castleford to build up some momentum and it paid off with Owen sending winger Nick Youngquest over at the corner to make it 14-4.

The visitors must have thought the comeback was on when Chan was sin-binned on 32 minutes for a dangerous tackle on Youngquest but the home side played even better with 12 men and extended their lead to 22 points by the break.

Replacement prop Larne Patrick maintained his huge promise, displaying a remarkable combination of pace and footwork to romp 40 metres for a solo try, and George grabbed his second after racing onto a precision kick from Kevin Brown.

The Giants were still a man short when the unfortunate Clare lost the ball in Brown’s tackle attempting to clear his own line and that enabled George to complete his hat-trick within a minute of the restart.

George then provided the final pass for Brown to touch down and, although the winger was taken off as a precaution after taking a knock, the one-way traffic continued with Lawrence forcing his way over for an eighth try.

After failing with his first two conversion attempts, Brough eventually found his accuracy to finish with five from eight attempts.

Before last night’s game, Millward had spoken about his return from compassionate leave following the death of his son Robbie, 19, from a heart attack.

“The players have had some counselling and obviously I’ve had some counselling too,” he said.

“The most important thing is to treat me as a normal person, as they did previously.

“I’ve asked the players to be honest. Because we’ve had some help, that’s made it a lot easier.

“We’ll go all right. The main thing is we do our best.”

Huddersfield Giants: Eden, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, George, Brough, Grix, Crabtree, Robinson, Gilmour, Chan, Lawrence, Brown. Substitutes: Fa’alogo, Faiumu, Patrick, Lee.

Castleford Tigers: Owen, Clare, Arundel, Dixon, Youngquest, McGoldrick, Chase, Walker, Hudson, Millington, Ferres, Grehan, Snitch. Substitutes: Clark, Mitchell, Emmitt, Massey.

Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens)

Forward Kurt Haggerty has become the fourth Widnes player to be suspended by the club this season for a breach of discipline.

The Vikings have not disclosed any details of the breach incurred by the 23-year-old second row, who played in the club’s opening three matches of Super League.

A club statement on the club website said: “Widnes Vikings has suspended Kurt Haggerty for a breach of club discipline. No further comment will be made.”

Widnes suspended Scott Moore, Simon Finnigan and Hep Cahill a month ago for breaking club rules.