THINGS are looking up for Huddersfield Giants, just in time for new coach Simon Woolford’s arrival.
The Australian was expected to be taking training on Monday but interim coach Chris Thorman last night revealed that may yet be delayed until after Magic Weekend. Regardless, Woolford will know the side he takes over has now strung together successive wins for the first time since last year.
It is genuine progress and, as well as offering plenty of encouragement for pulling clear of Super League’s bottom-four, last night’s win sees them in tomorrow’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final draw, too.
They were fully deserving of this hard-fought victory over Wakefield Trinity, coming from 8-6 behind at half-time to take firm control in the second period.
Among plenty of impressive performers, not least young prop Matty English who scored his first try for the club, was Ukuma Ta’ai. The big Tongan second-row came up with two crucial plays –scoring himself and creating another for Lee Gaskell – to help his side take charge and capitalise against a struggling opponents who slipped back into many of their old ways.
Lacklustre Wakefield were missing the injured Scott Grix, Craig Huby and Ben Jones-Bishop from Sunday’s rout of Hull KR, only their second win in nine games.
But there was little excuse for some of their ineptitude here. They rode their luck at times early in the second period even before Giants did strike.
They were splintered far too easily down their right edge but saw Max Jowitt come up with a fine try-saving tackle on Jake Mamo.
Jermaine McGillvary, the England winger who had missed the previous seven games with an ankle injury, also came close, only Ryan Hampshire’s foot desperately preventing him from touching down.
However, Kruise Leeming sent English over and shortly after McGillvary’s near miss, Huddersfield kept the ball alive again for Mamo to offload and Ta’ai charge in from 10m out.
It is genuine progress and, as well as offering plenty of encouragement for pulling clear of Super League’s bottom-four, last night’s win sees them in tomorrow’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final draw, too.Dave Craven
Still, twice Wakefield had good position to attack only to softly spill when playing the ball.
The second time they also conceded a penalty as a frustrated Matty Ashurst argued his case too strongly.
It was a crucial point; in the next set, Giants went up the other end to claim their fourth try, Ta’ai again being central to it with a bullocking run through the middle before finding Gaskell to squeeze over.
Danny Brough’s conversion to the 65th-minute effort should have left the hosts comfortable at 24-8.
However, Wakefield hit back swiftly as they created just enough space for Hampshire to tip-toe past McGillvary.
Finn curled in the touchline conversion and Chester’s side suddenly came to life. Giant second-row Pauli Pauli broke clear and found Bill Tupou but McGillvary got back to produce a vital try-saving tackle once more.
Then Tom Johnstone was smothered on the other side just as he looked ready to cross.
Wakefield knew it might not be their night when Jacob Miller’s fired long ball was just too high for the unmarked Hampshire to claim and it ended up in Row C instead.
Huddersfield, with Paul Clough making his 300th career appearance, were by far the more assured side on show.
Trinity had got off to a quickfire start, winger Mason Caton-Brown skipping in at the corner after just six minutes to make the most of his recall with Jones-Bishop nursing a calf strain.
Finn could not convert but he did slot a penalty soon after.
That said, after Trinity spilled coming out of their own half, the hosts almost immediately responded.
It was livewire hooker Adam O’Brien who crossed although he will be the first to admit it was a fortuitous affair.
As Johnstone tried to intercept, the ball ricocheted off him back behind his own line where O’Brien won the race to pounce.
Brough – returning from a three-game ban – slotted the goal but then his side incurred the wrath of referee Gareth Hewer with a series of infringements in quick succession as they defended their own line.
It resulted in Leeming being yellow-carded in the 27th minute although it was a foolish play by the hooker, interfering in the very next tackle after the official had spoken to captain Ryan Hinchcliffe about their discipline.
Finn kicked the penalty for Wakefield to go 8-6 ahead but it would be the last time they would lead. Twelve-man Giants defended their line admirably showing the character that would set the platform for that fine second-half showing.
Trinity will get chance to quickly make up for this disappointment, though; the sides meet again at Magic Weekend next Sunday. Both sides have injury concerns ahead of that; Huddersfield prop Daniel Smith was in agony as he was helped off with an arm injury towards the end of the first period and Wakefield’s Joe Arundel limped off at the start of the second.
Huddersfield Giants: Rankin; McGillvary, Gaskell, Mamo, McIntosh; Turner, Brough; Ikahihifo, O’Brien, Clough, Mellor, Ta’ai, Hinchcliffe. Substitutes: Leeming, Lawrence, Smith, English.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt; Caton-Brown, Tupou, Arundel, Johnstone; Miller, Finn; England, Wood, Fifta, Ashurst, Pauli, Horo. Substitutes: Hampshire, Hirst, Arona, Batchelor.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven)