ONE MORE performance that resembles anything like this and Huddersfield Giants will surely see their Super League status secured for 2018.
Rick Stone’s side, led superbly by Australian loose forward Ryan Hinchcliffe, ruthlessly swept aside a woeful Widnes Vikings outfit last night to take a significant step towards safety.
Keeping opponents pointless for the first time this season, they produced a perfect response to last week’s loss at Salford Red Devils, a defeat that had left them nervously looking over their shoulders at the threat of the Qualifiers once more.
Admittedly, Widnes were abysmal here and it is no surprise they are now mathematically condemned to the Middle Eights for a second time in three years.
Indeed, play as downright badly as this after the split and they will certainly be fearing relegation.
But, in contrast, Huddersfield were efficient, unfussy and classy at times as they moved up to replace Wigan Warriors in seventh on points difference.
Granted, Wigan will push the West Yorkshire club back down to eighth if they beat Catalans Dragons today but, bizarrely, that will actually serve as a favour; the French side are the biggest threat to ousting Huddersfield from the Super 8s.
Regardless of other results, though, if Stone’s side beat bottom-placed Leigh Centurions at John Smith’s Stadium next Friday, they are almost certainly safe before the last regular round at Hull FC.
Once the visitors had wasted their opening two attacking chances with shoddy handling, it seemed likely they were ripe for the taking last night.
The unforced errors just kept coming and Huddersfield – with half-back Martyn Ridyard back from injury to direct alongside Danny Brough – capitalised from the abundance of possession, striding into an 18-0 lead inside just 16 minutes.
Prop Shannon Wakeman bundled over from close range early on to suggest the Widnes defence might be as fragile as their handling skills and the hosts were over again soon after this time via Jermaine McGillvary.
The England winger, who missed the Salford game due to a back spasm, finished off a lovely backline move involving, not for the first time in his career, a wonderful final pass from centre Leroy Cudjoe.
It was McGillvary’s 14th try of the season and a perfect way to celebrate the birth of his third son on Wednesday.
When Hinchcliffe arrowed over back against the grain from Kruise Leeming’s disguised dummy-half pass, abject Widnes were clearly already ruined.
Granted, they did have a few chances of their own but they wasted them in almost criminal fashion. Wests Tigers-bound full-back Corey Thompson did well to evade an inrushing McGillvary only to then throw a ludicrous pass directly into touch with Stefan Marsh waiting to score.
That said, when centre Charly Runciman did get the better of Cudjoe and found Marsh with a delicious flick pass, the embarrassed Widnes winger fumbled with the line gaping.
When McGillvary spilled under the shadow of his own posts, Greg Burke did actually manage to get over the line but he was held up as Giants remained steadfast.
The hapless Marsh spilled behind his own line, too, and was left relieved when Cudjoe could only slap at the loose ball rather than legitimately touch down.
The England centre was denied again having brilliantly taken Ridyard’s pass one-handed on the run but Adam O’Brien, the former Bradford Bulls hooker returning from a foot injury, did add to Giants’ lead by sniping over from close range before the break for Ridyard to make it 24-0.
Even when Jordan Rankin spilled a high kick at the start of the second period, Widnes could not profit, Chris Bridge managing to butcher the gift.
Instead, Darnell McIntosh, the young winger who has impressed this term, scored his eighth try of the season with alarming simplicity from a 20m scrum.
Although the game became increasingly scrappy, Huddersfield, with strong shows from Sam Rapira and Paul Clough, never looked in danger of conceding. It was left to McGillvary to pounce for his second in the 70th minute before Ukuma Ta’ai completed the rout at the death, Widnes’s defence disappearing yet again and Ridyard finishing with six goals from seven attempts.
Earlier yesterday, Vikigs had announced the signing of Rangi Chase – the former England stand-off who has been on loan from Castleford Tigers since mid-May – on a permanent two-year deal, However, he was completing a two-game ban last night and with Australian full-back Rhys Hanbury also missing along with Tom Gilmore, the visitors sorely missed their creativity.
It was a severe lack of backbone that was most concerning, though, something that will not worry Huddersfield who showed here, with a fourth win in six games, that they have plenty of that and more.
Huddersfield Giants: Rankin; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Gaskell, McIntosh; Brough, Ridyard; Rapira, Leeming, Wakeman, Roberts, Ta’ai, Hinchcliffe. Substitutes: O’Brien, Mellor, Clough, Dickinson.
Widnes Vikings: Thompson; Ince, Bridge, Runciman, Marsh; Mellor, Heremaia; Dudson, White, Buchanan, Whitley, Houston, Cahill. Substitutes: Burke, Manuokafoa, Johnstone, Walker.
Referee: Tom Grant (Leeds).