Huddersfield Giants v Leeds Rhinos: Rivals in must-win territory as Ian Watson aims to avoid failure

HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS are in danger of falling short of their minimum target but Ian Watson remains convinced that good times are ahead.

The Giants began the season confident of making the top six after improving the squad that took the club to the play-offs for the first time in seven years in 2022.

However, Huddersfield have failed to build on a third-place finish and a Challenge Cup final appearance, languishing in 10th place ahead of Sunday's home date with fellow underachievers Leeds Rhinos.

"The minimum for us was a play-off spot," said Watson.

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"I spoke at the start of the year about us building a club the right way.

"It's like a bit of a rollercoaster with ups and downs – and we've had a down this year.

"We'd not been in the play-offs for a long period of time and wanted to get in again this year so we could say we're starting to move forward and progress as a club. We got to the Challenge Cup final as well last year and didn't want to drop back outside of that.

"We've still got an opportunity to try and do that or to finish the season really strongly and show people that when we can get some of our best players out on the field that we're a match for anybody on our day."

The Giants are aiming to keep their season alive. (Photo: John Clifton/SWpix.com)The Giants are aiming to keep their season alive. (Photo: John Clifton/SWpix.com)
The Giants are aiming to keep their season alive. (Photo: John Clifton/SWpix.com)
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After seeing his team hammered 54-0 in the last meeting with Leeds in June, Watson defiantly declared that he would "win a comp here".

"That (optimism) has not changed and never has changed," added the former Salford Red Devils boss, who took over at Huddersfield ahead of the 2021 season.

"People say you learn more through adversity and the hard times than you do from the winning. There has been bigger learning in this year than there was last year.

"This period will be the making of a lot of people. They will be better for it going forward."

The Rhinos boosted their play-off hopes last time out. (Photo: John Clifton/SWpix.com)The Rhinos boosted their play-off hopes last time out. (Photo: John Clifton/SWpix.com)
The Rhinos boosted their play-off hopes last time out. (Photo: John Clifton/SWpix.com)
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The Giants improved their top-six chances with a recent run of four straight victories but back-to-back defeats have left Watson's men realistically needing to win their last five games to reach the play-offs.

Watson concedes that his side have no room for error in the final month of the regular season.

"Every game is a must-win game for us and if that leads us into a play-off spot then awesome," he said.

"If we do our job and win every single game, whatever will be will be on the back end of that."

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The Rhinos head into the John Smith's Stadium clash two points better off than their West Yorkshire rivals thanks to last week's gutsy victory over Warrington Wolves.

Like Watson, Rohan Smith knows his team cannot afford any more slip-ups.

"It's huge," said the Rhinos head coach, who is without Nene Macdonald, James McDonnell and Corey Johnson this week.

"We had one with them not too long ago that was a huge fixture and every one since then has been equally as big for us.

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"It's one game at a time for us. It's going to be a huge opportunity and a huge challenge at the same time.

"They've got a good team and know what they're about. They've got some hardworking forwards, some strike in their spine and their outside backs are dangerous.

"You have to play well as a team to beat Huddersfield because you know they're very difficult to break down and are methodical with the way they go about things."

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