Huddersfield Giants 8 Salford Red Devils 9: Giants fail to beat 12-man Salford amid red card confusion

These are certainly strange times in rugby league so it was perhaps no surprise when there was another peculiar twist as Huddersfield Giants endured a shock loss last night.

Salford Red Devils' James Greenwood cannot believe he has been sent off (BRUCE ROLLINSON)
Salford Red Devils' James Greenwood cannot believe he has been sent off (BRUCE ROLLINSON)

Playing its rearranged home Super League game with Wigan Warriors on the eve of the Betfred Challenge Cup final, as was confirmed yesterday for Friday July 16, is unusual enough.

That, however, is a sign of the Covid landscape and perhaps unavoidable as the fixture list becomes increasingly congested.

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The bizarre occurrence in Huddersfield’s disappointing defeat to Salford Red Devils though, was the sight of referee Scott Mikalauskas brandishing a red card apparently to the wrong player.

Salford full-back Dan Sarginson, named in Shaun Wane’s England squad earlier in the day, poleaxed Adam O’Brien with a crude high tackle as the Giants hooker went for the line in the 32nd minute.

O’Brien, who suffered a broken neck last season, needed lengthy on-field treatment and eventually had to leave the field, gingerly holding his arm having injured his shoulder.

As he was doing so, though, Mikalauskas sent off James Greenwood, to the utter bewilderment of the Salford second-row who looked incredulous and was still seeking answers from anyone who would listen as he trudged down the tunnel.

Ironically, Sarginson was playing his first game since serving a three-game suspension for a dangerous throw.

Huddersfield Giants' Josh Jones, the former Salford Red Devils second-row, takes on their opponents. (BRUCE ROLLINSON)

It is hard not to think the 28-year-old will be spending some more time on the sidelines for this indiscretion, adding to Wane’s woe as, amid injuries, suspensions and Covid, he tries to select a squad for Friday’s mid-season international with the Combined Nations All Stars.

Nevertheless, 12-man Salford shrugged off the loss of Sarginson - and losing captain Lee Mossop in the warm-up - to end a five-game losing run and secure only their second win of the season.

In doing so, they handed out a painful lesson to Ian Watson, their former coach who left them in the winter in favour of joining Giants.

There could have been calls for a penalty try given how close O’Brien was to the line when supporting Kenny Edwards’ offload but in the end the hosts had to settle for Aidan Sezer’s penalty and Giants trailed 8-2 at the break.

Huddersfield Giants captain Aidan Sezer is snared (BRUCE ROLLINSON)

You would expect Huddersfield, with full-back Ash Golding impressing on his first appearance of the season, to wear down their 12-man opponents but - playing in front of fans at John Smith’s Stadium for the first time in 15 months - they were woefully short and underwhelming.

With 90 seconds remaining, Sezer saw a drop-goal attempt strike a post that would have sent the game into extra-time but they hardly deserved that.

There is some mitigation; Huddersfield saw seven players test positive for Covid recently, leading to the postponement of that Wigan game eight days ago, so their training has been punctuated with many players having been self-isolating, too.

Giants - who also saw Australian stand-off Jack Cogger limp off after just nine minutes - did initially level when Joe Wardle, making his first appearance of the season, dived over in the 48th minute.

Huddersfield Giants' Leroy Cudjoe goes in for his late chance but spills as he does so. (BRUCE ROLLINSON)

It came from a lovely angled run from Ricky Leutele, their Samoa centre and most dangerous player, and was improved by Sezer, the captain who started on the bench.

Sezer’s 40/20 should have produced more but Huddersfield wasted that chance and Salford - who capitalised on slack marking when Andy Ackers dummied over in the 10th minute - were encouraged.

They continued to battle hard and managed to eke out position for Chris Atkin to slot a 65th minute drop goal.

The hosts laboured, Edwards conceding a penalty for moving off the mark and more ball was spilled.

They had chances, Jake Wardle almost scrambling over and Jermaine McGillvary just failing to touch down in the corner, Leroy Cudjoe doing similar on the left flank as their opponents desperately scrambled.

But Sezer then threw a pass forward on halfway and Joe Greenwood - James’ brother - fumbled when playing the ball in the final throes.

It was not the first time the loose forward had done that during the game and it summed up his side’s night. As did Sezer’s miss.

Huddersfield Giants: Golding; McGillvary, Jake Wardle, Leutele, Cudjoe; Gaskell, Cogger; Yates, O’Brien, Wilson, Edwards, Joe Greenwood, Jones. Substitutes: Trout, Sezer, Lawrence, Joe Wardle.

Salford Red Devils: Sarginson; Sio, Burgess, Davies, Williams; Patton, Atkin; Ikahifio, Ackers, Wells, Livett, James Greenwood, Taylor. Substitutes: Burke, Johnson, Roberts, Ormondroyd.

Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (Leigh)