Wakefield 18 Huddersfield 36: Key man Lunt back to help Giants to victory

EVERYONE already knows the undeniable importance of Shaun Lunt to Huddersfield Giants but, on his first appearance in more than two months, the England hooker forcefully reiterated the point.

Huddersfield Giants' Jake Connor scores in the corner against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Huddersfield Giants' Jake Connor scores in the corner against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

His colleagues had been going along steadily in his absence, picking up plenty of wins but without ever looking like the stylised and ruthless side that lifted the League Leaders’ Shield last season.

Yet, by the time the Cumbrian took a well-earned breather after 28 minutes yesterday, he had already inspired Huddersfield to a 22-0 lead, leaving abject Wakefield Trinity ‘s slim play-off hopes, surely in tatters.

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Lunt, showing no signs whatsoever of rustiness after a frustrating calf injury, had quickly gone through his whole repertoire of dummy-half skills – defence-splitting passes, enticing in defenders, incisive runs – to score one try and create two others for voracious props Eorl Crabtree and Craig Kopczak.

The visiting pack, particularly the increasingly impressive Larne Patrick, thrived on the service and, the more holes they punched, the more damage Dream Team rake Lunt would do.

It was a timely return, too, given fellow hooker Kyle Wood suffered a season-ending knee the week previously, but Huddersfield coach Paul Anderson remained far from happy after witnessing his side then deliver a shabby second period to invite Trinity back in.

They retain sixth spot, moving within four points of leaders St Helens, but he admitted: “If we want to be a serious title contender we have to put an 80-minute performance together that’s two lots of that first 40.

“We were dominating and perfect in a lot of things but if we want to get in the play-offs and lose round one we play like we did in that second half. The players need to make a decision.

“It was good to have Lunty back. He’s a good player and he did look sharp – but he’s vain as well so he likes to look after himself! Just like Wigan miss (Michael) McIllorum, Saints miss (James) Roby and Leeds Rob Burrow, we miss Lunty.”

The ex-Leeds player’s replacement off the bench, the youngster Kruise Leeming, scored within moments of coming on after the typically erratic Jarrod Sammut dropped a kick.

When the Australian, who was switched to full-back as Richie Mathers was out with a groin issue, then spilled in a rare attacking foray from the hosts, Jermaine McGillvary raced 90m for his 18th try of the year.

Danny Brough, who hardly had to dip into his bag of tricks all afternoon given Lunt’s initial authority, kicked four goals for a 32-0 interval lead.

Indeed, the reigning Man of Steel argued he should have had another after one touch judge raised his flag and the other didn’t following the stand-off’s conversion attempt to Joe Wardle’s 76 second opener, Sammut having inexcusably sailed the kick-off directly into touch.

But Wakefield – who stunned Warrington a week earlier – returned for the second half utterly transformed scoring a 45th minute try via Sammut, the maverick former Bradford player who improved and then also had another ruled out for a forward pass from Paul Sykes. It was no surprise Anderson quickly called Lunt back into the fray but even his presence did not stop the hosts – clearly having endured some harsh words from coach James Webster – eating further into that deficit, Sykes eventually scoring from some smart play from Trinity’s own hooker Paul McShane.

Sammut once more converted and the hosts proceeded to waste a succession of further opportunities as Huddersfield – who saw full-back Scott Grix fail to return for the second period due to a tight groin – struggled to find any of their earlier cohesion.

In the end, however, they hung in long enough before Brough’s clever inside pass ushered Jake Connor over with five minutes to go. Sammut still had the last word, getting his second try in the final minute following a fine offload from Danny Kirmond and adding the goal, too.

Webster said: “It’s no secret that over the last few years we can’t handle big, fast, strong teams and today was like our defeat in Catalan. If we’d have handled it like we did the second half we’d have had a chance of winning the game but we didn’t and it took us 31 minutes to have a set on their line. It’s virtually impossible to win from there.”

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Sammut; Owen, Lyne, Keinhorst, Riley; Sykes, Smith; Raleigh, McShane, Scruton, Gilmour, Kirmond, Washbrook. Substitutes: Lauitiiti, Tautai, Moore, Wildie.

Huddersfield Giants: Grix; McGillvary, Murphy, Wardle, Connor; Brough, Robinson, Mullally, Ferres, Patrick, Lawrence. Substitutes: Kopczak, Bailey, Faiumu, Leeming.

Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).