AS EXPECTED, Castleford Tigers returned to winning ways but it was Huddersfield Giants and their 17-year-old winger Innes Senior who emerged with most credit from this contest.
It is rare for a player so young to feature in Super League but the Fartowners named two players of that age in the line-up yesterday – Innes’ twin brother Louis was, remarkably, on the other flank as they appeared together at senior level for the first time.
Trailing 28-6 at the break, it looked like being an afternoon to forget for the Huddersfield-born pair who hail from the same Newsome Panthers club that produced Giants captain Leroy Cudjoe, one of ten first-team players missing injured here.
Acting head-coach Chris Thorman had plenty to ponder – forwards Michael Lawrence, Dale Ferguson and Ukuma Ta’ai all came off injured at various points – but his gutsy under-strength side rallied to give Cas a real scare.
When Innes Senior showed real confidence to finish off his second try in the 66th minute, they found themselves just 30-22 behind against opponents reduced to 12 men after Adam Milner’s yellow card for the use of a forearm on Adam O’Brien.
Even when Castleford responded when Alex Foster completed his own double, the hosts hit straight back with prop Shannon Wakeman charging over after collecting the short re-start.
Eventually, Thorman’s side ran out of time and Castleford captain Michael Shenton gave his side some gloss with a try in the final seconds but it proved there is scope for the Giants to build after Rick Stone’s recent sacking.
Innes Senior had made his debut in the difficult circumstances of Easter Monday’s defeat at Perpignan, his brother in the game before when Giants drew here against Leeds Rhinos on Good Friday.
Standing at over six foot tall, and both with their socks rolled down around their ankles, they both performed admirably, Innes scoring his first senior try in the 55th minute.
Daniel Smith had started the fightback early in the second period and it was no surprise when Castleford scrum-half Jamie Ellis – in for injured Man of Steel Luke Gale – struck a penalty in the 64th minute to give them some breathing space at 30-16.
Strangely, for all their decent form this term, Daryl Powell’s side had failed to score in the second half of three of their last four fixtures, a character flaw that looked like returning until Foster did finally cross in the 72nd minute. It was all so different in the first period; his side were 28-6 at the break and, in all honesty, the damage could have been even greater.
Giants never really threatened, their only breakthrough coming from a clever play by Lee Gaskell that saw Ukuma Ta’ai bustle over in the 35th minute, Jordan Rankin converting.
Any hopes from their fans that might spark a revival then were quickly dashed; Ellis floated a long ball to Greg Eden and the winger – back from a hamstring injury – raced on, beating full-back Jared Simpson with alarming ease.
Eden, who signed a new three-year deal last week but did not return for the second period, was joined in Tigers’s side by another former Giant – Joe Wardle.
He made a successful return from his own hamstring injury on his first appearance back at John Smith’s Stadium since leaving for Newcastle Knights at the end of 2016.
In the first half at least, England scrum-half Gale was hardly missed. Ellis, a third former Giant, replaced him having been left out of the squad completely for the Easter Monday loss against Warrington Wolves and he was more than capable of helping break down the hosts.
In their defence, Thorman’s side was missing a raft of their best quality including Danny Brough, Jermaine McGillvary, captain Cudjoe and Jake Mamo.
Earlier Paul McShane opened the scoring in the fifth minute after Foster’s ball-steal on Simpson and Greg Minkin soon added another from Jake Trueman’s fine cut-out pass.
Huddersfield’s discipline was so poor they were handed a team warning as early as the 22nd minute, McShane then dinking a grubber through for Foster’s first try before Giants centre Jordan Turner was sin-binned for taking a Castleford player out off the ball when defending a kick.
Benny Roberts’ produced a no-look pass to send Jake Webster over for their fourth try and a 22-0 lead in the 28th minute and that should have been game over. It wasn’t. Far from it.
Huddersfield Giants: Simpson; L Senior, Turner, Murphy, Innes Senior; Gaskell, Rankin; Ikahihifo, O’Brien, Ta’ai, Ferguson, Lawrence, Smith. Substitutes: Clough, Wakeman, Roberts, English.
Castleford Tigers: Trueman; Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden; Roberts, Ellis; Watts, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Wardle, Foster. Substitutes: Moors, McMeeken, Milner, Springer.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield)