HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS were implored to respond after their “abysmal” Challenge Cup exit and how they did on Thursday night.
With a performance full of character, fortitude and no little skill, the team that sat joint-bottom of Super League produced a stunning victory as they ruthlessly ended the 10-match winning run of leaders Hull FC.
It is not often Giants chairman Ken Davy, the club’s benevolent owner, is truly irked but he clearly was after their tepid Cup defeat to Wakefield Trinity a week earlier, using his programme notes to demand improvement especially as it came so soon after the tragic death of Academy player Ronan Costello.
The result was clear to see as, after a blistering spell of three tries inside seven minutes early in the second period, the Fartowners took control of a previously tight affair to stun Lee Radford’s high-fliers.
Jermaine McGillvary scored twice in that burst, the second being his 150th career try, but it was Jake Connor, filling in at full-back for the injured Scott Grix, who proved a revelation.
There is some disharmony between the clubs currently as Hull recently announced they have signed the talented 21-year-old for 2017 – with Huddersfield insisting on compensation.
The East Yorkshire club caught a glimpse of what they will get next season, though, when Connor produced his best display of the year to torment his future employers.
He supplied the final pass for both McGillvary’s efforts, the second also after Connor’s 40/20 kick, while his defensive positioning was first-class, particularly in the first half when the visitors tested him with a series of kicks.
This victory, meanwhile, was a great moment for Andy Kelly, Huddersfield’s Academy coach who has been in charge for the last three matches since boss Paul Anderson was sacked.
Kelly leaves to take the England Academy side on tour to Australia next week with Giants still searching for a replacement.
But they look in good fettle on this showing. They shrugged off the loss of banned captain Danny Brough and injured second-row Joe Wardle – linked with a move to NRL club Newcastle Knights – to inflict Hull’s first defeat since losing at Leeds in mid-April.
Huddersfield centre Leroy Cudjoe was excellent again on his 250th career appearance while Hull sorely missed the influence of three key players.
Gareth Ellis, Jamie Shaul and Liam Watts were all rested with minor niggles and the visitors never truly clicked.
Lee Radford recalled veteran ex-Great Britain stand-off Leon Pryce with Kiwi Carlos Tuimavave switched to centre for the rested Kirk Yeaman.
Curtis Naughton filled in for Shaul but Hull lacked their usual spark as well-marshalled Huddersfield looked at ease.
The hosts, in contrast, looked the more dangerous side in attack early on. Connor forcing one drop-out with his chip and chase. That was wasted, though, when Ukuma Ta’ai spilled charging it straight back at Josh Bowdon.
But that was one of Huddersfield’s few basic errors on a night when they managed the rainy conditions far better than their opponents especially with Jamie Ellis’s kicking.
They more than matched Hull in a tight opening quarter, defending well and showing confidence with the ball.
Mark Minichiello was held up over their goalline but that was the visitors’ only real early threat and it Kelly’s side who struck first.
Granted, they were fortunate to earn a penalty – Scott Taylor deemed to have stripped possession when Ukuma Ta’ai merely looked like he lost control – but Michael Lawrence didn’t ask questions as he dived onto Ellis’s grubber in the 17th minute.
Ellis converted and then slotted two points from a penalty.
The visitors twice got over Huddersfield’s line but both Minichiello and Taylor were denied by fierce defence.
Hull finally scored via Danny Washbrook in the 44th minute, Marc Sneyd making it 8-6.
But Hull self-imploded as Minichiello tried an offload in his own 20 from the restart to allow Tom Symonds, the second-row recently signed from Manly Sea Eagles, to score his first try in Giants colours.
Ellis tagged on the extras and Huddersfield were in again soon after when Connor palmed on Cudjoe’s pass for McGillvary to make his mark. The game had turned now and, when the England winger added his second for 22-6, Giants were on course for their second win in six games.
Hull started to lose patience and, therefore, Mahe Fonua’s 77th minute converted effort was a mere consolation.
Huddersfield Giants: Connor; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wood, Murphy; Ellis, Brierley; Rapira, Leeming, Ta’ai, Symonds, Lawrence, Hinchcliffe. Substitutes: Crabtree, Wood, Mason, Roberts.
Hull FC: Naughton; Michaels, Fonua, Tuimavave, Talanoa; Pryce, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Green, Manu, Minichiello, Pritchard. Substitutes: Thompson, Hadley, Bowden, Washbrook.
Referee: C Kendall (Huddersfield).