Huddersfield Giants 22 Wakefield Trinity 18: Jake Wardle try seals remarkable fightback
How Chris Chester’s side failed to end their losing run only they will know after going 18-0 up inside just 15 minutes but then haplessly squandering such a sizeable lead at John Smith’s Stadium.
Jake Wardle completed Huddersfield’s impressive fightback with a 68th minute try, set up wonderfully by Sam Wood who came off the bench and enjoyed a starring role as a makeshift half-back after Olly Russell failed a HIA.
Russell had an eventful afternoon; the young half-back was sin-binned after just 51 seconds which led to the visitors initially taking control.
However, after Louis Senior got Giants off the mark, homegrown Academy product Wood - joining Hull KR at the end of the season - scored a try after Innes Senior’s embarrassing error.
It was Wood’s kick that saw winger Senior - on-loan from Giants and facing his twin brother Innes for the first time - not only fumble behind his own goalline but then compound the error by trying to squeeze out a pass under heavy pressure.
It only found Wood, the rangy utility back, who scored the easiest try of his career.
Will Pryce improved that 36th minute effort and - at the start of the second period - Jermaine McGillvary got them closer still as nervy Trinity started to look like a side that had lost four games on the bounce.
Wardle made an exhilarating break to increase the tension on them and, though Sam Hewitt was hauled down, referee James Child deemed the ball was illegally wreathed clear in the act.
From that penalty, Wood found some space down the right and was able to get England winger McGillvary over for his second try to level matters in the 61st minute.
Pryce - who had replaced Russell on kicking duties - was just wide with his conversion attempt from the touchline but it mattered not as, soon after, Wood slid in the kick for Wardle to seal victory.
McGillvary departed with a hip injury late on and, for Trinity, his England team-mate Reece Lyne also left the field with a shoulder issue to add to Chester’s worries.
With Ashton Golding pulling out ill yesterday, Olly Ashall-Bott excelled for Giants at full-back especially as some late pressure finally arrived but his side held on for a deserved success.
It was a third successive win for Giants and Watson was delighted with his side’s response.
“It was a horror start in every aspect,” he said.
“Losing the ricochet from the kick and then Olly Russell meant we faced a lot of adversity.
“But this team has been fighting for each other and we stuck to the process.
“It was an outstanding win. I’d say the best win we’ve had against almost a full strength Wakefield team and it showed tremendous character.
“I wasn’t panicking. I wasn’t comfortable as you’re alarmed.
“But I knew once we scored if we backed ourselves we’d be alright.
“It’s been a long time since Huddersfield has won a game like that and it shows tremendous belief.”
Trinity went 12-0 ahead during Russell’s absence and, just moments after he returned from the sin-bin, the visitors extended their advantage to 18-0 when Joe Westerman walked through some paperthin defence.
Giants might argue the yellow card was harsh. At the end of the game’s first set, Russell aimed a kick downfield but it only got as far as Kelepi Tanginoa, ricocheting off the Trinity forward’s head in the direction of the Huddersfield line.
Lyne picked up and got close but, after being denied by Russell, Child deemed the Giants player committed a professional foul by interfering at the play-the-ball.
Lyne quickly exploited the extra space in the ensuing set for the game’s opening try and Max Jowitt did likewise in the next set, breaking from inside his own 20 to send Ryan Hampshire scampering away for their second.
Hampshire, playing half-back with Mason Lino missing his first game of the season, improved both.
When Giants did finally get the ball again, Senior immediately conceded a drop-out after being forced back behind his own goal line as he tried to return a kick.
Hampshire’s smart grubber saw the erring Will Pryce cheaply concede another drop-out but this time the hosts were let off the hook as Trinity prop Dave Fifita somehow spilled Wardle’s monstrous 60m kick.
Nevertheless, Westerman added a third try but then Russell’s looping pass was wonderfully tipped on by Wardle for Louis Senior to score.
Still, Russell spilled the restart and then problems further escalated for the hosts as - within the space of a minute - they lost both captain Leroy Cudjoe and himself to HIAs.
But former England centre Cudjoe was able to return - he came up with a trademark flick pass for McGillvary’s opener - and Wood came in to help take control alongside the excellent teenager Pryce as improving Giants secured a third successive win.
Huddersfield Giants: Ashall-Bott; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Jake Wardle, L Senior; Russell, Pryce; Yates, Peats, Wilson, Jones, McQueen, Trout. Substitutes: S Wood, Hewitt, Peteru, Greenwood.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt; I Senior, Lyne, Arundel, Johnstone; Miller, Hampshire; Fifita, Kay, Green, Ashurst, Tanginoa, Westerman. Substitutes: K Wood, Batchelor, Battye, Arona.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).