Huddersfield Giants 42 Leigh Centurions 24: Eight-try Giants finish with a flourish

A SEASON of transition at Huddersfield Giants was rounded off with a comfortable victory over long-since relegated Leigh Centurions.

Head coach Ian Watson will not be pleased with a ninth-placed finish in Super League given the amount of expectancy and investment granted when he arrived from Salford Red Devils last autumn.

However, in winning six of their last ten games this term and with new signings of the ilk of Great Britain prop Chris Hill to come as well so many improving youngsters, there is plenty to suggest that his second campaign in charge will be a more profitable one.

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This game, which certainly had an end-of-season feel, had been largely balanced until Giants scored back-to-back tries just before the break.

Leigh had been 12-10 ahead but the double blast put the hosts firmly in control.

As has been the case so often this term, it came after Centurions spilled cheaply coming out of their own 20.

Nathan Peats, the former State of Origin hooker who has had such a positive impact on Giants since joining on loan from Leigh in July, found a lovely disguised pass which sent Owen Trout sailing through a gap to score untouched.

In the next set, Olly Russell found Ricky Leutele with a long ball on halfway and the stylish centre had just enough space to fashion a chance to glide through.

Huddersfield Giants' OIly Russell scores in the first half (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)

Russell supported on the inside and added his third conversion of the afternoon for a 22-12 advantage.

They should have scored a fifth try early in the second period when Olly Ashall-Bott scampered through down the right but his no-look pass to Jermaine McGillvary unsurprisingly found no one and instead arrowed into touch.

Nevertheless, after some fine interplay from Peats and Trout up the middle plus a wonderful bit of trickery from Leroy Cudjoe, Russell did find a perfect crossfield kick for Louis Senior to gather.

The rangy winger showed great skill to then delicately dab forward before winning the race to touch down for his second try of the day.

Huddersfield Giants' Leroy Cudjoe finishes off another try. (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)

While his twin brother Innes has certainly advanced on loan at Wakefield Trinity this term, there is no doubting he, too, has improved plenty in 2021.

Matters got worse for Leigh when Jack Ashworth, the prop playing against his parent club, was sin-binned for a high shot in Peats in the 56th minute.

Almost immediately, Giants loose forward Joe Greenwood crashed over from close range but Brendan Elliott did respond for 12-man Centurions when he latched onto Ryan Brierley’s grubber.

It was only a brief respite, though, as Will Pryce stepped up to sprinkle some of his magic on the affair.

Huddersfield Giants' Joe Greenwood on the charge against Leigh Centurions. (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)

The teenager came off the bench to play at full-back and scored a brilliant 60m solo try up the middle, throwing in a couple of big sidesteps and great pace to leave a trail of defenders in his wake.

As if challenged to raise their own quality, Leigh hit back with an excellent long-range try of their own as Sam Stone finished off Elliott’s raid down the right flank.

But Leutele, who was always a threat on Giants’ left edge, got a well-earned score before Nathaniel Peteru was yellow carded late on for petulantly kicking the ball away in frustration at a referee decision.

Peteru, the prop who also joined on loan from Leigh with Peats in July, was excellent again but he was not alone.

Captain Cudjoe was in good nick on the right side and there was plenty of industry up front from the likes of Josh Jones, Chris McQueen and the mobile Trout.

Elliot scored while Giants were down to 12 men with the final play of the game, Leigh battling on until the death as they have largely done so throughout what was always going to be a difficult campaign for the promoted club.

Giants had got off the mark as early as the fourth minute following Leigh’s first handling error of the day.

The hosts’ handling was much better in comparison as they shifted the ball left for Senior to finish impressively.

However, Leigh have been more competitive of late, illustrated with them finally getting their first win of the season against Salford and also defeating Wakefield the previous Sunday.

They hit back with Jai Whitbred’s effort, improved by Brierley, but Cudjoe showed his class when rising to claim Russell’s lofted kick for Giants’ second try.

When the hosts missed touch with a penalty, they had to defend their line for a sustained period as Leigh pressed hard and also forced a drop-out.

But they were up to the task and it was not until Ian Thornley’s 28th minute try that the visitors regained the lead with Brierley’s conversion.

They looked like going in at the break in front but then came that ruthless period as Huddersfield made their first step towards victory.

Meanwhile, Huddersfield have confirmed Sebastine Ikahihifo, the prop who has been on loan at Salford for the last two seasons, will be back at John Smith's Stadium in 2022 while back-row Kenny Edwards will spend next season on loan at Castleford Tigers.

Huddersfield Giants: Ashall-Bott; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Leutele, L Senior; Cogger, Russell; Wilson, Peats, English, Jones, McQueen, Lawrence. Substitutes: Trout, Peteru, Greenwood, Pryce.

Leigh Centurions: Shepherd; Elliot, Sa’u, Thornley, Logan; Brierley, Ellis; Sidlow, Hood, Whitbred, Stone, Hellawell, Bell. Substitutes: Thompson, Gerrard, Butler, Ashworth.

Referee: Tom Grant (Leeds)