THEY have flown under the radar for most of the season, but Huddersfield Giants have quietly put themselves in a position to steal at least second place in the Super 8s table.
Last night’s 34-20 win at Hull FC lifted Huddersfield to within a point of leaders Leeds Rhinos, who they play at John Smith’s Stadium next Friday night, and second-placed Wigan Warriors.
It was Huddersfield’s fifth successive victory and they will be confident of beating a Leeds team who have lost their last three.
The top-two will secure home advantage in the semi-finals, with first playing fourth and second facing third.
The visitors went ahead during Craig Huby’s spell in the sin-bin and extended their advantage to 12 points before Hull scored a try out of the blue to narrow the gap.
A penalty edged Giants two scores ahead on the stroke of half-time, but Hull looked capable of snatching a shock win when they went 20-18 in front.
Huddersfield refused to panic and they never looked like letting the game slip once Jake Connor’s second try restored their lead.
It was close though and the final margin flattered Huddersfield, who didn’t make the game safe until three minutes from time when Super League’s leading try scorer Jermaine McGillvary went in for his 26th of the season. It was his 100th try for Huddersfield and his 12th in six matches.
Hull had an outstanding performer in full-back Jordan Rankin, making his 50th appearance for the club.
Just three days after confirming his move to Australian club Wests Tigers on a three-year deal beginning next season, Rankin scored a brace of tries and saved a couple more with last-ditch defence.
He went over from acting-half for the opener after Mark Minichiello had been pulled down just short and added Hull’s second five minutes before the interval, stepping out of a tackle – one of the few missed by Huddersfield – from Marc Sneyd’s pass.
Seconds later, Michael Lawrence burst up the middle, but Rankin kept him out with a copybook tackle. He had also held Huby up over the line earlier in the half.
Rankin was the victim when Huby received a yellow card after 11 minutes, for a high tackle. The numerical disadvantage shook Huddersfield into life after an error-strewn opening and they went ahead soon afterwards.
Aaron Murphy finished strongly at the corner from Connor’s offload and the roles were reversed for Huddersfield’s second try, the winger getting a pass away and his centre producing a spectacular diving finish.
On the half hour Hull’s left-side defence crumbled allowing Jack Hughes to cut through and send the supporting Scott Grix in. Rankin’s second try put some colour in Hull’s cheeks, but Brough landed a penalty as the hooter sounded, when Jack Logan was adjudged to have stolen the ball from Murphy.
Hull got off to a flying start in the second half, Josh Bowden taking advantage of a mix-up in Huddersfield’s defence to touch down Sneyd’s grubber kick inside a minute, for his first try of the season.
Sneyd landed his second conversion and then Kirk Yeaman celebrated his new contract with a trademark touchdown, throwing a dummy and slicing through a gap from to make it 20-18.
That was Yeaman’s 153rd Super League touchdown and moved him level with former St Helens and Hull KR winger Ade Gardner in ninth place on the competition’s all-time list of try scorers.
Giants made errors throughout the game, but when they did complete their sets Hull’s defence struggled to keep them out.
With 19 minutes left Brough’s pass found Murphy and he slipped out an offload to create Connor’s second try and restore the visitors’ lead.
The consensus in the ground was that Murphy’s pass had been forward and that was one of several 50-50 calls which went against the hosts.
They did have some luck with 13 minutes left when Grix missed a chance to extend Huddersfield’s lead, knocking-on going for the line from acting-half.
But Hull lost possession on a regular basis coming out of their own territory and Huddersfield took advantage when McGillvary crossed from Leroy Cudjoe’s pass.
Jamie Ellis added a sixth try for the visitors on the final play, Brough’s fifth goal of the night took him to equal sixth place, with Sean Long, on Super League’s list of all-time kickers.
Hull FC: Rankin, Naughton, Downs, Yeaman, Logan, Pryce, Sneyd, Paea, Houghton, Watts, Minichiello, Hadley, Abdull. Substitutes: Paleaaesina, Turgut, Fash, Bowden.
Huddersfield Giants: Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Connor, Murphy, Brough, Ellis, Huby, Leeming, Smith, Wardle, Hughes, Ta’ai. Substitutes: Bailey, lawrence, Kopczak, Mason.
Referee: B Thaler (Wakefield).