YET another woeful home performance has left Huddersfield Giants teetering on the brink.
Huddersfield failed to score for the second successive game on their own turf, going down 24-0 to Castleford Tigers in a scrappy, low-quality encounter.
Such is the tight nature of the competition, Castleford remain sixth in the Super League table, behind Salford Red Devils on points difference, but are only one win off second place.
They got nowhere near top gear, but were still far too good for a poor Giants outfit who failed to apply any pressure until the final five minutes and then couldn’t find a way through a strong visiting defence.
Wins over the weekend for their relegation rivals London Broncos and Wakefield Trinity added to Giants’ misery.
Still 10th, they are now level on points with bottom club London and, on this evidence, look the least equipped of the five teams in danger to get themselves out of it.
Huddersfield’s next two games are away to fourth-placed Hull and league leaders St Helens and they complete their campaign at home against Catalans Dragons.
They will need a huge improvement to get anything from those matches and there is a danger their for and against could take a battering, particularly in the next two rounds.
Castleford didn’t make the result safe until 20 minutes from time, but would have won by a greater margin had they been more clinical on attack.
They did most of the pressing, but took some wrong options and made errors which allowed Huddersfield to stay in the game.
Luck was against Giants even before kick-off, Innes Senior twisting an ankle in the warm-up and having to be replaced by Darnell McIntosh.
Matters didn’t improve after that. A high-quality finish from James Clare opened the scoring after just seven minutes, the Castleford right-winger squeezing over close to the corner flag after his centre Peter Mata’utia had flicked the ball on.
That was the one moment of genuine flair in the opening 40 minutes.
Castleford, playing against the wind, relied on five drives and a kick while Huddersfield were twice caught in possession on the final tackle and, on another two occasions, drilled a pointless kick into touch, without attempting to put any pressure on the visitors’ defence.
Huddersfield created only one opportunity, when Lee Gaskell dummied into space and was heading for the line before being pulled back for an obstruction.
Gaskell tried hard throughout and could hold his head high afterwards.
Castleford had more of the territory throughout, but made little of it before the interval, though Oliver Holmes was held up over Huddersfield’s line and Greg Minkin also crossed the whitewash, but Cheyse Blair’s pass was ruled forward. Three incidents in the final five minutes of the half summed up the lack of quality on show.
Firstly, Huddersfield got into a good attacking position on the last, but Tom Holmes kicked out on the full.
Then at the other end Mata’utia got an off-load away 20 metres from the home side’s line, Jamie Ellis, rather fortunately, hacked on and only had to pick the ball up to score, but fumbled.
Two minutes before the interval Huddersfield were awarded a penalty in front of Castleford’s posts, but opted to tap it and Oliver Russell knocked-on.
The opening stages of the second period followed the same frustrating pattern, until Adam Milner forced his way over from close-range on 49 minutes for the visitors’ second try, which Ellis improved.
It was Castleford’s second opportunity, after Blair had gone for the line himself and been tackled in possession, when he had support on the blindside in yet another example of a wrong option being taken in good field position.
Ellis took the two after Alex Mellor was sin-binned for pulling back Oliver Holmes as the Castleford forward chased Paul McShane’s kick and the result was put beyond any remaining doubt on the hour.
It was a fittingly scrappy try, off a shocking Huddersfield error. Jake Trueman kicked behind the line, Jake Wardle failed to make any connection and Mike McShane simply put a hand on the ball to score the easiest four points of his career.
Jesse Sene-Lefao added some power to Castleford’s performance when he came off the bench in the first half and the big forward scored their final try, in the 70th minute, scooting over after a nice combination between Trueman and Jordan Rankin.
Ellis’s fourth goal completed the scoring, though Castleford –for the only time in the game – had to apply themselves defensively in the final few minutes as Huddersfield managed to apply some late and futile pressure.
Huddersfield Giants: Gaskell, McGillvary, McIntosh, Jake Wardle, L Senior, Russell, T Holmes, Ikahihifo, Leeming, Walne, Ta’ai, Mellor, Lawrence. Subs O’Brien, Roberts, Wilson, Matagi.
Castleford Tigers: Rankin, Clare, Mata’utia, Blair, Minikin, Trueman, Ellis, Maher, McShane, Millington, O Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Subs Milner, Sene-Lefao, O’Neill, Smith.
Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).
London Broncos kept their Super League survival hopes alive with a much-needed 17-4 victory over Catalans Dragons in Perpignan.
Kieran Dixon and Alex Walker scored tries as Danny Ward’s men registered an important success in Perpignan.
It moves them level with Huddersfield and Hull KR, and just two points behind Wakefield and Leeds Rhinos.
“We’re always confident every week that we can go out and win, we know what we’re capable of and it’s always nice coming over to France and getting a victory,” Broncos boss Ward said.
“It was a massive effort today by the boys. It was pretty special that one.”