BRETT FERRES further enhanced his England credentials with his first-ever hat-trick last night as Huddersfield Giants heaped pressure on leaders Wigan Warriors.
The strong-running second-row, who made his international debut against the Exiles recently, posed a constant threat for Catalan Dragons, augmenting his impressive treble with a brilliant piece of handling to furnish Luke George with a try too.
However, the talented 27-year-old who joined from Castleford Tigers last summer will no doubt be thanking his former team-mates at Wheldon Road this morning after they stunned Wigan last night.
It meant second-placed Huddersfield – who also saw winger Jermaine McGillvary cross for a hat-trick in this 10-try destruction – have now moved to within a point of Shaun Wane’s side and the League Leaders’ Shield is suddenly a genuine target.
However, as absurd as it sounds considering a hefty scoreline that was their second largest of the campaign, demanding coach Paul Anderson will know his side musty raise their performances even further if they are going to overhaul Wigan in the final seven games and push on for a first title in more than 50 years.
They comfortably ran away with the game in the second half here, Danny Brough again utterly beguiling, but will certainly want to sharpen up their ball control and concentration levels, while Catalan, supposed title challengers themselves, were wretched showing awful ill-discipline. But the Giants were rocked with news Craig Kopczak sufferered a potential ruptured bicep.
Huddersfield led 24-12 at the break more by virtue of making slightly fewer mistakes than anything else. It was one of those games where neither side seemed to want to gain any control, with too many soft errors making for a disjointed half.
Catalan’s shocking discipline was also a reason why Huddersfield were able to come out of it all better off.
Scott Dureau had a nightmare for the visitors. It was his dissent which gifted Huddersfield position to strike first just four minutes in, the scrum-half then compounding the error as Ferres easily bumped him off to score when charging on to Brough’s delayed pass.
The Australian then kicked out on the full, missed an easy conversion attempt and, worst of all, was sin-binned just before the break for an idiotic piece of play that even a 12-year-old would not be allowed to get away with.
Another poor Catalan kick had rolled dead and, as Huddersfield’s Scott Grix tried to race back for a quick 20m restart, Dureau blatantly swiped the ball out of his hand.
Referee James Child had no alternative other than brandishing the yellow card and, after Leon Pryce was penalised for dissent and interference in quick succession, Brough’s kick put Huddersfield firmly in control.
The Giants scrum-half had again been central to his side’s cause, throwing a looping, long ball for Aaron Murphy to scramble over in the ninth minute before dabbing a right-footed grubber through for Ferres to grab his second.
McGillvary intercepted Pryce’s lazy pass to run in from halfway for Huddersfield’s fourth try, the winger narrowly avoiding embarrassment as chasing 39 year-old second-row Steve Menzies arrived just too late to deny him.
Catalan had always stayed in touch throughout the half, however, quickly responding to that first setback when Vincent Duport rose above a static George to collect Dureau’s kick and then Frederic Vaccari steamrollering over Grix in the corner after the Huddersfield full-back had dropped a simple kick.
When McGillvary fumbled another Dureau kick, Catalan were invited in once more, George – playing his first game since early April after injurying a knee while on loan with Hull KR – being caught napping at marker as Damien Blanch eased over from dummy-half for the softest of tries.
Duport almost got a second when Thomas Bosc’s kick nutmegged Brough early in the second period but the French centre did not get sufficient grounding.
When Bosc put his next kick out on the full, and with Dureau waiting on the touchline just moments from his return, Huddersfield ruthlessly made them pay.
Ferres showed great upper body strength and dexterity to get a one-handed off-load to George who picked up and dived over.
Brough did the rest from wide out but Huddersfield were guilty of slack line defence once more when Zeb Taia easily dummied over from close range in the 55th minute.
Bosc took over kicking duties but also missed and, much to the amusement of the home crowd, ex-Bradford Bull Pryce animatedly threw the ball to the ground in disgust and frustration after knocking on yet another poor Dureau pass.
From there, Dale Ferguson stormed through and beat Morgan Escare before feeding Shaun Lunt for the hooker’s 19th try of the season and then Ferres claimed his hat-trick after Larne Patrick raced onto Brough’s clever inside ball.
McGillvary added his second after he latched onto Luke Robinson’s pinpoint kick before Leroy Cudjoe breezed in for Brough to maintain his 100 per cent conversion rate.
Huddersfield: Grix; McGillvary, Cudjoe, George, Murphy; Brough, Robinson; Kopczak, Lunt, Patrick, Ferres, Ferguson, Lawrence. Substitutes: Crabtree, Faiumu, Ta’ai, Cording.
Catalan Dragons: Escare; Blanch, Duport, Millard, Vaccari; Pryce, Dureau; Simon, Henderson, Casty, Taia, Menzies, Mounis. Substitutes: Bosc, Pelissier, Larroyer, Paea.
Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).