IT was always going to get a little heated wasn’t it?
Huddersfield Giants’ game at Salford last night may have been played in pouring rain but it did nothing initially to cool the players’ aggression and tempers.
Visiting coach Paul Anderson had already spiced things up beforehand by saying his side “owed” Salford one.
That was after Huddersfield’s second-row Brett Ferres was left with a serious ankle injury following a “cannonball” tackle from Rangi Chase when they last met on Good Friday, an offence that earned the former England stand-off a seven-game ban. He is still serving that but Weller Hauraki did return for Salford after completing a four-game suspension following a couple of offences committed in that same fixture at Huddersfield.
Yet, in a game that was always simmering, Hauraki quickly ended up stewing on the sidelines once more.
The ex-Castleford Tigers second-row had been banned for a shoulder charge on Scott Grix at Easter and soon reacquainted himself with the Giants full-back last night with a high tackle in the 22nd minute.
When Grix took offence to a legitimate tackle soon after when trying to score, punching Hauraki on the ground, both were yellow carded as a melee ensued.
There was, of course, the obligatory late tackle from Salford’s Lama Tasi – the New Zealand prop’s timing seems to be habitually off whenever an opposing half-back is in view – but, more unusually, there was a bizarre act from veteran forward Adrian Morley as well.
The ex-England captain, 38, seemed to headbutt Kruise Leeming twice as he tried to shrug off the young Huddersfield hooker’s tackle.
The incident was spotted by a touch judge but only put on report by referee Robert Hicks who spent most of the first half urging both captains to tell their sides to play nicely.
In amid it all, however, Huddersfield built up a 12-0 advantage which, understandably given the wretched conditions, was enough to see them home.
Danny Brough’s astute kicking was typically crucial.
Ben Jones-Bishop failed to deal with the stand-off’s high kick in the sixth minute, gifting Leroy Cudjoe a simple try, and he darted through a gaping hole before dinking a grubber for Jamie Ellis to score after 15 minutes. Brough improved the latter and, in between those two tries, they should have scored again only for Jack Hughes to juggle and drop possession when Kyle Wood’s cleverness had left the on-loan Wigan second-row destined to cross.
Before the interval, Brough also made a darting line break only to find Salford’s Mason Caton-Brown with his inside pass.
Instead, Huddersfield had to settle for a 38th-minute penalty from the former Man of Steel and, with Salford improving their discipline and applying some pressure of their own at the start of the second half, the Scotland captain tagged on a drop goal in the 55th minute just to give his side some breathing space.
The hosts wasted a couple of opportunities to get back into the game against an admittedly well-organised Giants defence but they killed themselves in the 62nd minute.
Jones-Bishop, the former Leeds Rhinos winger, again erred as he made a hash trying to get to Brough’s next hoisted kick, only managing to get a stray foot to it and landing it straight back into the half-back’s grasp.
At the next play, with Salford still trying to set their line, scrum-half Wood dummied his way over to exploit the mistake fully and Brough converted to make it 19-0.
Caton-Brown saw an effort ruled out late on after Grix fumbled a kick but Iestyn Harris’s side never truly threatened.
It was perhaps no surprise given they were missing Chase, half-back partner Michael Dobson plus Kiwi full-back Kevin Locke – and the fact Huddersfield boast Super League’s finest defence.
That was illustrated again with just three minutes remaining when, with the game long won, they fittingly denied Hauraki as he strived to burrow over for a consolation.
Huddersfield, avenging last month’s 18-12 defeat, are now four games unbeaten and up to fourth.
Their next assignment will be far more tesing – a trip to Challenge Cup holders Leeds in a week’s time for a place in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Salford Red Devils: Evalds; Johnson, Gildart, Caton-Brown, Jones-Bishop; Fages, G Griffin; Taylor, Godwin, D Griffin, A Walne, Hauraki, Hansen. Substitutes: Hood, Morley, Tasi, J Walne.
Huddersfield Giants: Grix; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Connor, Murphy; Brough, Wood; Crabtree, Ellis, Huby, Wardle, Hughes, Ta’ai. Substitutes: Mullally, Lawrence, Kopczak, Leeming.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).