IT seems, at the age of 29, Huddersfield Giants’ Aaron Murphy has found a new position in life.
Consistently one of Super League’s most reliable wingers, and occasional full-back or centre, yesterday he was deployed at second-row by Chris Thorman with eye-catching results.
Against Wakefield Trinity – the team Murphy left in 2012 – he quickly scored the opening try and then made a searing break to help create another for Jake Mamo, as Giants surged 18-0 ahead after only 24 minutes at Magic Weekend.
Always enjoying the physical side of the game – he produced a thunderous first-half hit on prop Craig Huby – this switch to the pack, with Michael Lawrence, Ollie Roberts and Dale Ferguson all injured, is perhaps a natural progression. In truth, however, Murphy owed much of his success in Newcastle to the continued brilliance of veteran Danny Brough, another former Trinity star, who both times supplied the astue passes to unleash his team-mate.
Furthermore, after Wakefield had responded with Matty Ashurst’s fortunate try, his grubber coming back off Jermaine McGillvary, Brough produced a stellar 40/20 that led to his own drop goal with the final play of the first period.
At 19-6, given the ineptitude of Trinity’s first-half display and their pitiful recent record, there didn’t seem much of a way back in for Chris Chester’s side who had also been knocked out of the Challenge Cup at Huddersfield nine days earlier.
They had already allowed acting-half Adam O’Brien to dummy over with some embarrassing goalline defence and were generally off the pace despite Chester ringing the changes, including dropping England hopeful Tom Johnstone and having Tyler Randell, Ben-Jones Bishop and Huby back in his ranks.
Indeed, even when Giants gave their opponents a helping hand, Kruise Leeming getting yellow-carded in the 46th minute for infringing moments after a team warning, just as the hooker did the week before, Trinity could not capitalise.
Yes, Jones-Bishop did latch onto Jacob Miller’s grubber in the next set for Liam Finn to leave it 19-12.
However, they still managed to implode against their 12-man opponents, Pauli Pauli showing ill-discipline when hitting Brough late after the pass had gone.
In the next set, they were splintered all too easily once more as Mamo’s brilliant swift hands furnished winger Darnell McIntosh for Brough to add his fourth conversion.
Granted, Pauli atoned with a deft pass of his own to send Jones-Bishop in for the winger’s second try of the afternoon, Finn improving to help set up a thrilling finish.
But, in fairness, they failed to apply the requisite pressure; Rocky Hampshire spilled one great opportunity – the erring full-back wasted another in the first half with poor decision-making having already sailed a restart dead – and they rarely threatened Huddersfield’s defence which has improved so much of late.
Reece Lyne did eventually get over in the 73rd minute, the robust centre swatting aside Mamo with a big fend, but Finn could not convert.
Still, after an ill-conceived pass from Ukuma Ta’ai to McIntosh ended in touch, Chester’s side did have another chance followed by another set when Ryan Hinchcliffe caught Miller high.
But, crucially, neither time they had the wherewithal or ingenuity to get the try they so desperately needed and, to perfectly illustrate the issue, Finn then missed touch with a penalty kick with just 10 seconds remaining.
Instead, Giants’ resurgence continued, this being their third successive win and certainly an enjoyable one for Geordie Thorman on home turf at St James’ Park.
New head coach Simon Woolford has still not arrived but when he does, he will find his new charges – bottom recently – in rude health having closed to within three points of seventh-placed Trinity.
Aside from Murphy, that is; his eventful afternoon was ended by a concussion in the 56th minute.
Wakefield Trinity: Hampshire; Jones-Bishop, Tupou, Lyne, Caton-Brown; Miller, Finn; Fifita, Randell, Hirst, Kirmond, Ashurst, Arona. Substitutes; Wood, Huby, Pauli, Horo.
Huddersfield Giants: Rankin; McGillvary, Gaskell, Mamo, McIntosh, Turner, Brough, Ta’ai, O’Brien, Clough, Mellor, Murphy, Hinchcliffe. Substitutes: Leeming, Dickinson, English, Ikahihifo.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).