THERE are high hopes for Jake Wardle at Huddersfield Giants, the young centre whose moment of magic helped complete a crucial revival against struggling Hull KR last night.
Still only 20 years old, he has been dogged by injury problems in his fledgling career, but undoubtedly has genuine class.
This was on show as he produced a stunning 90m try to give his side a lead they would never relinquish late on against a Rovers side who continue to falter.
Lee Gaskell was certainly glad of the youngster’s intervention; having taking over from Oliver Russell, who had missed all three of his kicks, he himself missed a simple conversion attempt of Joe Wardle’s try on the hour mark meaning the sides were left locked at 16-16.
However, Rovers centre Ben Crooks managed to spill when on the attack just three minutes later and Jake Wardle – who had missed the last three games –sprung into action.
He accelerated down the left wing and, as Craig Hall looked primed to haul him, brilliantly slowed up to beat him back inside and then evade Ryan Shaw’s desperate attempt, too.
Typically, Gaskell – who excelled with his ingenuity and probings from stand-off – nailed the touchline conversion and his side were firmly on their way to a first win in four games.
Head coach Simon Woolford said: “The sky’s the limit for Jake.
“That try was outstanding. He outsmarted them. He knew he didn’t have the gas, but did brilliantly to beat the cover. I’ve always said his future could be 30 or 40 caps for Great Britain if we can just get his body right.
“We were our own worst enemies in the first half but we spoke about getting the basics right – kicking long – and we turned it around.”
Rovers, who have lost five straight league games and remain 11th, compounded matters when Antoni Maria was sin-binned for a late high tackle on Gaskell in the 68th minute.
With the Giants playmaker still dazed, Russell reclaimed kicking duties and slotted the penalty before converting Kruise Leeming’s try as the shabby visitors crumbled once more.
Rovers, who face Salford Red Devils at Magic Weekend next, grabbed a Danny Addy try at the death but it was too little too late.
Tim Sheens will be furious with his side after they built up a 16-8 interval lead only to collapse terribly in the second period.
England winger Jermaine McGillvary scored his second try in the 52nd minute after a wonderful long ball from Gaskell, Russell initially doing the damage by sending Ukuma Ta’ai hurtling through feeble defence.
That saw them get a sense of victory and Rovers only served to encourage them further.
Huddersfield, who had shown encouraging signs in Sunday’s narrow Challenge Cup loss to Super League leaders St Helens, had initially fallen back in to too many of their old bad habits.
Ill-discipline and pure laxness in defence damaged them badly.
Joe Wardle – Jake’s elder brother – will be furious with himself for getting sin-binned in the eighth minute.
The experienced back-row aimed some vitriol at a touch judge after giving away a penalty.
But when Robert Hicks penalised him for dissent, he then spoke out of turn to the referee as well who quickly brandished the yellow card.
Rovers immediately capitalised as they exploited the space on Giants’ left-edge for Junior Vaivai to dive in at the corner in the eighth minute.
However, there were other poor lapses, not least when Joel Tomkins was able to score the visitors’ second try on the half-hour.
Admittedly, Giants had been heavily penalised near their own goalline but there was no excuse for switching off as they did when the KR captain took a quick tap penalty a couple of metres out.
He touched down with barely a finger laid on him. To make matters worse, they conceded in the next set, too.
Crooks slipped Vaivai away once more and, though Jake Wardle reeled him in, Josh Drinkwater dabbed in a kick that sat up perfectly for the onrushing Hall who scored his 99th Super League try.
Shaw improved and his side were well-set. But Huddersfield, who face Hull FC in Liverpool in a week’s time, had other ideas.
Sheens - who says Danny McGuire tore his quad - said: “There was a crucial ruling on that length-of-the-field (Wardle) try at a critical part of the game.
“We feel it was stripped and should have been a scrum.
“One of my players had a hand on the kid who stopped himself to look waiting for the call but he was told play on and off he went.
“That was a classic, taught from a young age – play to the whistle, and we didn’t.
“We’ve got two hookers out at the moment but I’m hoping to see that improve in the next two weeks.
“But it’s always another week, another week and another week with us at the moment; it’s two steps forward and two back.”
Huddersfield Giants: McIntosh, McGillvary, Turner, J. Wardle, I. Senior, Gaskell, Russell, English, O’Brien, Matagi, Murphy, Hewitt, J. Wardle. Substitutes: Clough, Leeming, Lawrence, Ta’ai.
Hull K R: Hall, Shaw, J. Keinhorst, Crooks, Vaivai, McGuire, Drinkwater, Maria, Addy, Mulhern, Linnett, Tomkins, Lawler. Substitutes: Hauraki, Garbutt, Atkin, Lannon.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).