IT IS PLAIN for all to see that revitalised Huddersfield Giants have no intention whatsoever of taking part in the Qualifiers next month.
Simon Woolford’s side produced another stunning result last night, out-playing and out-battling second-placed Wigan Warriors to take a huge step towards securing their Super League safety.
Winger Darnell McIntosh scored a brace of tries for a second week running, replicating his effort against Hull FC last Thursday, but this win was built more on defence than anything else and a fine collective effort.
Huddersfield’s pack, led superby by the likes of Michael Lawrence and Paul Clough, never gave Wigan an inch, forcing their opponents into countless errors and leaving them in a truly befuddled state.
Indeed, the hosts kept Shaun Wane’s team pointless from the fifth minute until the 75th, allowing Lee Gaskell – again impressing since being switched back to stand-off – and Danny Brough to exert all of their influence.
It is a sign of how far they have come since Woolford took over towards the end of May that, even when reduced to 12 men following Lawrence’s yellow card in the 58th minute, there was no sense of panic whatsoever.
At that point, they were only 16-6 ahead and it could have led to some sort of collapse.
Instead, the West Yorkshire club actually extended their lead, captain Leroy Cudjoe – back after missing the Hull win through injury – latching onto Brough’s latest teasing grubber to record a first victory over Wigan in more than four years.
The scoreline should have been more emphatic given Brough only managed to convert one of their four tries but they will not worry about that this morning when they look at that Super League table. Huddersfield have risen from eighth to seventh with just two regular games remaining at Castleford Tigers a week Sunday and then rounding off at home to Wakefield Trinity.
However, they are also level on points with Catalans Dragons who moved into sixth after last night’s dramatic 22-22 draw at Warrington Wolves.
Huddersfield are four points clear of ninth-placed Leeds Rhinos who host Wakefield – down to eighth – tonight in a critical contest for both.
Woolford’s side were 12-6 ahead at the break last night but, given their superiority, should really have been further in front.
Everyone was stunned that both referee Gareth Hewer and touch judge James Child somehow missed a blatant knock-on directly before Wigan opened the scoring via Sam Tomkins in the fifth minute.
Tomkins improved his own effort but was soon in trouble for a high tackle on Jermaine McGillvary, the England winger who needed to leave the field for a head injury assessment but thankfully returned.
Huddersfield responded with a quality try from McIntosh, the young winger who, on the run, rose to collect Gaskell’s fine crossfield kick in the 12th minute.
Brough could not improve the effort but he did level with a penalty soon after, Wigan’s ill-discipline proving an issue for most of the evening.
They went ahead courtesy of another well-crafted try, Adam O’Brien, the industrious hooker, putting on a runaround with Lawrence before sniping half through a tackle and sneaking a lovely pass out to the waiting Alex Mellor.
Wigan’s error count was alarming whether Tomkins kicking out a restart on the full, Tommy Leuluai passing forward from dummy-half, numerous players spilling ball cheaply or Sam Powell needlessly giving away a penalty for dissent.
It only served to encourage Huddersfield further when they didn’t need any at all.
Brough duly slotted another penalty before O’Brien produced a crunching tackle to force Gabe Hamlin into a mistake.
That was a crucial point; Wigan had, for once, forced some pressure with a repeat set but his intervention released all of that.
Instead, it was Wigan left scrambling twice at the end of the first half to deny Giants a third try, first when Cudjoe made a break and then, later in the set, to bundle McIntosh into touch.
Any fears their lack of points from that raid might come back to haunt them were quickly eased when McIntosh did get his second try just two minutes into the second period.
It was another woeful mistake from Wigan that set up position, Morgan Escare spilling a benign downfield kick, but the creativity was on show once more as Brough crabbed away from the scrum to give Jake Mamo space to get the winger over.
There was some vital goalline defence shown when Tomkins seemed certain to get over and, even when down to 12 men, Giants still looked sure in their task.
Josh Woods produced a splendid 40/20 kick but the Wigan man was prevented by Lawrence from quickly taking the tap and was rightly sin-binned.
But Cudjoe struck and, by the time Tom Davies crossed late on, Wigan’s hopes were already long gone.
Woolford, who said full-back Jordan Rankin was missing due to a slight ankle issue, said: “It was a very satisfying win.
“Wigan have been playing a lot of footy and they test you but the most pleasing thing for us was how hard we kept working for each other.
“Defensively we were very good. We were a bit scratchy with the ball, a bit all over the place, but overall we were pleased.
“I think we only made one error in that second half and when Michael Lawrence was off, Broughy kicked really well to see us through that period, finding the touchline.
“He was a bit off with his goalkicking but apparently his usual kicking tee has gone missing and he did come up with some big plays for us in open play.”
Huddersfield Giants: Mamo; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Turner, McIntosh; Gaskell, Brough; Lawrence, O’Brien, Clough, Mellor, Murphy, Smith. Substitutes: Hinchcliffe, English, Ferguson, Roberts.
Wigan Warriors: Tomkins; Davies, Paisley, Gildart, Marshall; Woods, Powell; Navarrete, Leuluai, Flower, Isa, Hamlin, O’Loughlin. Substitutes: Escare, Clubb, Kibula, Tautai.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).