On the day that the rugby league world was stunned by the withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand from this year’s World Cup, tonight’s Superleague encounter between the Huddersfield Giants and Hull FC had somewhat slipped under the radar.
Both sides knew that a win would do nothing for their respective league positions but for Hull FC it would consolidate their fourth position in the table and keep Warrington in their sights in terms of win percentage while a win for the Giants could be the final nail in the coffin for Leigh Centurion’s season and edge the home side to safety.
The bookies were expecting a close game, the visitor’s slight favourites with the Giants being given a four-point start on the handicap coupon with both sides being decimated by injuries and COVID issues.
There were just over three minutes on the clock when FC took the lead with Andre Savelio picking up a stripped ball and then finding Carlos Tuimavave in support to take the pass on the line and run over closer to the sticks to give Marc Sneyd an easier conversion for a 6-0 lead.
On seven the Giants struck straight back with Jermaine McGillvary taking a Chris McQueen pass and spinning out of a Mitieli Vulikijapani tackle to ground by the right corner flag. The Oliver Russell touchline conversion didn’t hit the target, the Giants still trailing by two.
From the restart the Giants were in again with Nathan Peats went through a gap in the Hull defence with a lunge from acting half back to score from two metres out. This time Russell hit the target and the Giants hit the front.
Vulikijapani got Hull back on level terms on seventeen as he jumped to kick a Sneyd bomb in the left corner and evaded the tackle of McGillvary to get over the line for 10-10 and when Sneyd added the touchline conversion it was advantage to FC.
On twenty-six Jordan Lane was on hand to collect a Mahe Fonua tap back off a Sneyd bomb to the corner for another simple try in the left corner. Sneyd missed with the kick, the visitors with a six-point lead.
But the Giants weren’t throwing in the towel as Luke Yates picked up a palmed back kick to the corner to run in unopposed from five metres out. Russell hit the post with what looked a simple conversion, the Giants two points adrift.
The Giants were back in front on thirty-three with Will Pryce taking the pass twenty out and throwing a dummy to go through the line and outpace the defenders to score on the angle. Russell missed the kick again, now just one from three.
Two minutes from the interval McGillvary win the race to ground a Russell grubber to the corner. The video referee had a close look before agreeing with the on-field decision and awarding a try. Russell again hit the upright, the Giants with a 22-16 lead and while it had certainly been an entertaining half of rugby but both coaches will have had plenty to say about their respective defences at half time.
After a sruffy opening ten minutes to the second half McGillvary chased down, collected and then grounded a Russell grubber kick to the corner for his hat-trick try. Russell must have changed his boots during the interval as he added the conversion from the touchline for a twelve-point lead.
FC tempers were starting to fray as they struggled to get back into the game and on fifty-five Ligi Sao was sin-binned for being late into the tackle with a swinging arm.
A mistake from the Giants, Leroy Cudjoe spilling the ball on the half-way line saw the loose ball picked up by Vulikijapani who went almost fifty metres to score in the corner. Sneyd was unable to add the extras, the Airlie Birds back within eight.
McGillvary’s fourth came on sixty-five as he carved his way through the FC defence off a Russell long pass as he came infield and avoided the intention of four tackler before diving over the line. Russell was on target for his third goal of the night, the Giants edging towards their first victory in seven games.
The Giants were running hot as they sealed the win, Leroy Cudjoe running unhindered through a broken FC defence to dive over behind the sticks. Russell added a goal to give the Giants a 40-20 lead.
Tevita Satae got a late consolation who minutes from full time and when Sneyd added the conversion he reduced the Giants winning margin to fourteen points.
As the final hooter sounded Josh Jones and Andre Savelio exchanged punches with both players being shown red cards by referee Kendall.
This was a Huddersfield Giants side who were hungry for the win and for the first time in seven games had the skill and go-forward to pick up the points. The Giants must surely now be safe from any relegation fears which would now require four big wins from a pointless Leigh. FC on the other hand are now nervously looking over their shoulder at the chasing sides as their fourth spot looks increasingly in danger.
Huddersfield Giants: Golding, McGillvary (4T), Cudjoe (T), Wardle, Senior, Russell (4G), Pryce (T), Wilson, Peats (T), Yates (T), McQueen, Jones (SO on 80), Trout. Subs: Wood, Hewitt, Peteru, Stevens.
Hull FC: Swift, Vulikijapani (2T), Tuimavave (T), Fonua, Scott, McNamara, Sneyd (3G), Satae (T), Houghton, Sao (SB on 55), Lane (T), Savelio, Fash. Subs: Brown, Bowden, Burrell, Johnstone.
Referee: Chris Kendall.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 8-6, 10-6, 10-10, 10-12, 10-16, 14-16, 18-16, 22-16 : HT : 26-16, 28-16, (SB), 28-20, 32-20, 34-20, 38-20, 40-20, 40-24, 40-26, (SO), (SO) : FT.