QUITE clearly, Huddersfield Giants simply did not care one jot about Hull FC’s best-laid Wembley plans.
Most people expected the Airlie Birds – who defend their Challenge Cup in next Saturday’s final against Wigan Warriors – to warm-up comfortably for that contest against their Yorkshire rivals last night.
After all, eighth-placed Huddersfield’s already slim hopes of reaching the semi-finals had all but ended at Wigan the previous week and in-form Hull were seeking a fifth successive win.
Even missing the likes of Albert Kelly, Jamie Shaul and Scott Taylor – presumably being protected for Wembley – Lee Radford’s side still seened to have plenty in reserve.
Yet they were pretty shambolic for most of this Super 8s encounter, with a raft of costly handling errors gifting Huddersfield countless possessions, the impressive visitors gleefully lapping it all up.
Stand-off Lee Gaskell profited with a hat-trick, although he will still be wondering how his third try arrived so softly after yet another Mahe Fonua mistake, the Tonga centre who departed with a shoulder injury near the end.
The 20-year-old winger Darnell McIntosh, in particular, excelled, contributing two tries amid a fine performance while full-back Jordan Rankin, the Australian who has made such a difference to Giants’ attacking options since arriving this summer, buzzed around all night against his former club. Such was Huddersfield’s control, they were even able to continue punishing their hapless hosts without Danny Brough, their talisman who limped off with an injury early in the second period.
It is always easy to say the Challenge Cup finalists are preoccupied with thoughts of Wembley at this time of year and Radford must hope that simply was the root of most of this carnage.
Otherwise, if it was something deeper, they will certainly be in trouble next week especially given, at the same time, Wigan were destroying Salford Red Devils 42-6.
Huddersfield, who have made great strides in the second half of the season, grew in confidence as the first half wore on and went into the break 22-12 ahead after McIntosh scored his second try with the final play.
The young winger had been the instigator, too, in a fashion, given it was his improvised grubber that forced the drop-out that led to him crossing with 10 seconds left on the clock.
Hull were furious, though, insisting McIntosh, in fact, and not them, had actually knocked the ball dead when chasing his initial kick.
That said, there was no doubting the actual finish as a lovely sweeping move from the visitors saw Rankin provide a brilliant final pass for the local youngster.
Brough improved and Huddersfield were on their way.
Hull had started well enough, Gareth Ellis, on his 450th career appearance, getting up after being floored by prop Shannon Wakeman’s high tackle to show great strength when stretching over to score after a strong carry towards the sticks in the 10th minute.
His fellow veteran back-row Mark Minichiello also then found open space with a break from deep but he did not have support and Wakeman, of all people, got back to haul him down.
The lack of alacrity in the Hull ranks there, though, perhaps suggested what was to come.
If that did not, the way in which McIntosh sneaked in at the corner off Gaskell’s pass following a simple move in the 18th minute certainly did.
Their flimsy defence was splintered again soon after as Sebastine Ikahihifo powered clear.
He was denied but, after forcing a drop-out, Kruise Leeming crabbed across field before finding Gaskell straightening through on a quality line for his first try.
Jake Connor, the utility back who left Huddersfield last winter, responded with a fine effort of his own in the 27th minute, but it was soon cancelled out as Rankin, once more, delivered the cutting pass for Alex Mellor to slice Hull again.
McIntosh got that second effort and Brough kept things ticking over with a penalty early in the second period.
His cautionary two points was not needed, however, as – after the stand-off’s 40/20 sailed out – Fonua gifted McIntosh the ball and young prop Tyler Dickinson rumbled over yet more feeble goalline defence.
Rankin took over kicking duties, also converting when Gaskell got on the outside of Marc Sneyd far too easily and again when Leeming exploited further dozing defence.
In between, Josh Griffin escaped long enough to rampage down the left and get Hull a consolation – he will hope that secures him a Wembley place – but this was undoubtedly Huddersfield’s night.
Furthermore, with a thought to post-Wembley, FC also fell three points behind Yorkshire rivals Leeds Rhinos in the race for second place.
Hull FC: Connor; Michaels, Fonua, Griffin, Talanoa; Tuimavave, Sneyd; Bowden, Houghton, Watts, Minichiello, Turgut, Ellis. Substitutes: Green, Thompson, Washbrook, Manu.
Huddersfield Giants: Rankin; McGillvary, Mellor, Turner, McIntosh; Gaskell, Brough; Wakeman, Leeming, Ikahihifo, Hinchcliffe, Ta’ai, Clough. Substitutes: O’Brien, Lawrence, Smith, Dickinson.
Referee: S Mikalauskas (Leigh).