Huddersfield Giants 12 St Helens 24: Ian Watson's side prove depth in gutsy defeat

If the Easter Monday clash with St Helens was an early audition for the business end of the Super League season, Huddersfield Giants passed despite coming out on the wrong side of the result.

St Helens celebrate Jon Bennison's try. (Picture: SWPix.com)
St Helens celebrate Jon Bennison's try. (Picture: SWPix.com)

Ian Watson vowed to test the depth of his squad for the visit of the defending champions and the Giants boss was as good as his word.

Out went the likes of Ricky Leutele, Jermaine McGillvary, Theo Fages and Chris Hill as Watson made seven changes from the team that snatched a draw at Leeds Rhinos on Thursday night.

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It was a brave call against a formidable outfit but Watson's decision was vindicated even in defeat.

Konrad Hurrell makes a break for St Helens. (Picture: SWPix.com)

The depleted Giants went toe to toe with Saints as they proved they have the strength in numbers to last the pace in Super League.

It was the kind of performance that would have been good enough to see off most sides in Super League but St Helens are in a different league.

Kristian Woolf stuck with the bulk of the side that beat Wigan Warriors on Good Friday and they were good value for the 24-12 win in the end.

Saints are famed for their line speed but Huddersfield set the pace in the opening exchanges with Jack Ashworth rocking former team-mate Mark Percival with a ferocious tackle.

Ashton Golding takes the ball in. (Picture: SWPix.com)

It did not take long for Woolf's side to settle into the contest, Curtis Sironen making a half-break after being put through a hole by Jonny Lomax.

The opening try came on the back of a trademark rampaging run from Konrad Hurrell, Jon Bennison stepping off the left wing to finish nicely despite the attention of several Huddersfield defenders.

Ashworth continued to show the way for the home side, taking Jake Wingfield off his feet twice in quick succession with bone-crunching hits.

St Helens went close to extending their lead when Jack Welsby's chip over the top hit the corner post with Bennison sensing a second try.

Joe Batchelor's try was a crucial moment. (Picture: SWPix.com)

Ashworth kept Saints honest on their own line during Huddersfield's best period of the opening quarter but they were losing bodies at an alarming rate.

Joe Greenwood, Ashworth and Adam O'Brien were all forced off with head knocks in the space of a matter of minutes, a concern for Watson ahead of Saturday's trip to Warrington Wolves.

The Giants were in the game, though, and found a way through the best defence in the competition on 25 minutes, with a bit of help from the visitors.

Saints lost the ball on the first tackle close to their own line and were punished, Tui Lolohea showing composure and vision to work an opening that was finished by Golding in the corner.

Oliver Russell added the extras from the touchline and there was relief for the Giants when Greenwood and Ashworth both returned to the field.

There was always going to be a response from a proud defensive side but Huddersfield held firm and would have taken Saints' decision to knock over a penalty through Tommy Makinson as a small win.

The Giants returned serve when Russell dusted himself down after a late hit to kick a penalty and at 8-8 they would have been the happier side at half-time.

As they so often do, Saints upped the tempo after the restart and Huddersfield struggled to go with them, initially at least.

Mark Percival showed perseverance to touch down out wide and, sensing blood, St Helens went back to the left soon after in search of a killer blow.

But this time the ball went to ground and Lolohea was on it as quick as a flash before showing a clean pair of heels to leave Agnatius Paasi in his wake.

Russell saw his conversion attempt sail wide, leaving Saints with a narrow lead entering the final quarter.

Chasing a game against St Helens can be a thankless task, one that became virtually impossible after Joe Batchelor ran a good line to touch down and Makinson made it 20-12 from the tee.

A mistake from Lolohea close to his own line gave Saints the field position to cross again through Lomax but Huddersfield kept going and almost scored a scintillating try following a break by Golding.

The Giants remain in the top four despite the defeat and Watson will feel confident of staying there after seeing his fringe players step up to the challenge.

Huddersfield: Tui Lolohea, Ashton Golding, Leroy Cudjoe, Louis Senior, Innes Senior, Jack Cogger, Oliver Russell, Joe Greenwood, Adam O'Brien, Oliver Wilson, Josh Jones, Jack Ashworth, Michael Lawrence.

Substitutes: Danny Levi, Nathan Mason, Luke Yates, Saw Hewitt.

St Helens: Jack Welsby, Tommy Makinson, Konrad Hurrell, Mark Percival, Jon Bennison, Jonny Lomax, James Roby, Alex Walmsley, Joey Lussick, Matty Lees, Joe Batchelor, Curtis Sironen, Jake Wingfield.

Substitutes: Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Agnatius Paasi, James Bell, Daniel Norman.

Referee: Tom Grant.