Not long after kick-off yesterday it quickly emerged that Huddersfield Giants’ game with Salford Red Devils wasn’t going to be a spectacle of any sort.
With rain drizzling down, errors were present from the off and it was a bitty, fragmented match with little intensity as if the players had already endured a tiring holiday period.
However, in the end, it was Salford, with Rangi Chase and Michael Dobson’s superior kicking game and a more pragmatic approach, who adapted better, cut out the mistakes and duly halted their opponents’ four-game winning run.
Iestyn Harris’s side edged to a victory they certainly deserved, jumping from ninth up to fourth in the process where they removed a lacklustre, error-prone Giants, who were unrecognisable from the team that vanquished Warrington Wolves a week earlier.
Hapless Huddersfield made a staggering 14 handling mistakes in this game, which left mortified coach Paul Anderson needing to re-enforce a message to his deflated squad afterwards.
“With about a minute to go I sent a message down saying I wanted a ball in the dressing room,” he said.
“I said to the players that this (the ball) is as important to us as their kids are to them and they have to look after it for dear life.
“There are things I can do system-wise to help us but dropping the ball like that is just not acceptable.
“We needed some handles on it to carry it but our attack’s not been great this season and we have to sort it out on Monday at Hull KR which will be a tough game.
“Today we made a very good team – ourselves – look very, very poor.
“Salford kicked well, completed their sets and we did the exact opposite with real simple handling errors meaning defensively we just gave ourselves too much to do while we threw nothing at them.
“It was just very disappointing.”
In fairness, neither side were helped in their efforts to get some rhythm going given there were two stoppages – the first quite lengthy – in quick succession midway through the first period as Salford full-back Kevin Locke and then Huddersfield’s second-row Brett Ferres both received treatment before being helped off with head and leg injuries respectively.
After forcing back-to-back drop-outs, it was the visitors who struck first, former Huddersfield centre Josh Griffin latching onto Ben Jones-Bishop’s grubber in the 21st minute as Jermaine McGillvary struggled behind his own line.
After Scott Grix was bundled into touch by Junior Sa’u. not long after the Salford centre became the latest player in need of medical aid after being bumped off by Eorl Crabtree, they were in again on the half-hour.
Former England stand-off Chase dared to aim a grubber towards the posts direct from the scrum on the first tackle and the ambitious tactic paid off as ex-Leeds Rhino Jones-Bishop – switched from the wing to full-back with Locke off – won the race to the bouncing ball.
Griffin this time converted for a 10-0 lead but, after another former Giant Tommy Lee charged into Jamie Ellis late after a pass, the hosts struck.
It was Ellis who dusted himself down to usher Jack Hughes over with a lovely short pass to see the Wigan Warriors loanee score his first try for the club four minutes before the break. Danny Brough improved but Huddersfield started poorly in the second period as Joe Wardle dropped a simple pass.
They did well to maintain their composure, however, as referee James Child continually failed to sort out Salford’s slowing tactics at the ruck.
It was surreal at times how the official failed to intervene although Salford’s third try on 55 minutes was singularly down to the hosts’ own inadequacies.
Kyle Wood missed a tackle in front of his own posts allowing a quick play-the-ball for Lee to send Carl Forster bundling over, Griffin extending the score to 16-6.
Weller Hauraki was put on report for a high tackle on Huddersfield full-back Scott Grix but the home side, strangled by a succession of handling mistakes, could never force any pressure to respond.
No one escaped – playmakers Ellis and Brough both made cheap fumbles – and it was a sign of the disarray they found themselves in that when they did get to a kick it was prop Craig Huby launching the ball skywards.
Eventually, they got it together enough to see Aaron Murphy – as always, one of their better players – to earn his fifth try of the year from Ellis’s kick in the 71st minute, Brough making it 18-12.
However, yet more needless handling mistakes meant Salford quickly got an opportunity to make sure, Griffin slotting a penalty and Dobson twice going close with drop goal efforts.
Huddersfield head to Hull KR on Easter Monday who have beaten St Helens and derby rivals Hull FC in their last two games.
Huddersfield Giants: Grix; McGillvary, Murphy, Wardle, Broughton; Brough, Ellis; Huby, Robinson, Kopczak, Hughes, Ferres, Ta’ai. Substitutes: Crabtree, Lawrence, Wood, Johnson.
Salford Red Devils: Locke; Jones-Bishop, J Griffin, Sa’u, Johnson; Chase, Dobson; Morley, Lee, Taylor, Paterson, Hauraki, Hansen. Substitutes: Tasi, D Griffin, Hood, Forster.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).