Huddersfield Giants knew they’d be in for a tough test as they had eight first-team players missing against a full strength St Helens side on Thursday night but put up a good fight against the league leaders who secured the victory with 28 unanswered points.
The Giants did not even touch the ball in the opening five minutes and Saints punished them on the back of four attacking sets on the bounce. The pressure on their defence just couldn’t hold out as Luke Thompson used good footwork to just step past Ukuma Ta’ai and stretch the ball over the line. Lachlan Coote successfully converted for an early 6-0 lead to Saints.
That lead lasted less than ten minutes though as the Giants won back-to-back sets after a James Roby penalty. The try came courtesy of Jermaine McGillvary after Alex Mellor and Darnell McIntosh drew the Saints defenders in and the latter released McGillvary who dotted down with a spectacular dive in the corner. Lee Gaskell the converted to level the scores after 13 minutes.
The Saints were still looking to take control of the game but the handling errors in attack were letting Huddersfield off easily.
With twenty minutes gone and more wasted opportunities from Saints, the Giants were doing their best to get themselves ahead in the game.
Saints increased their intensity though as James Roby made up for his error as he exposed a huge gap in the Giants line and a failed interception from Darnell McIntosh gave the visitors good field position. Only a metre out from the try-line Roby judged the defence perfectly and his cute pass to Morgan Knowles allowed the Welshmen to dive under the posts. Coote once again converted and the score was 6-12 after 25 minutes.
The Giants responded almost instantly as they won the ball back on just the second tackle after their kick-off. The ball was spread to the right-hand edge, Alex Mellor and Darnell McIntosh once again drew the defence once more and this time it was Jordan Turner who powered over against his former club. Gaskell then duly delivered with the boot again to level the scores less than two minutes after the Saints too the lead.
Despite having a physical forward pack of their own, the Saints were struggling to deal with the dominance of the Giants in the tackle. However, Dominique Peyroux switched the tides after absolutely clattering Joe Wardle with the Giants man staggering to his feet and subsequently failing his Head Injury Assessment.
Despite the loss of Wardle, Huddersfield looked to take the lead with just a few minutes remaining of the half but youngster Sam Hewitt knocked the ball on as he was playing the ball and St Helens escaped. Hewitt then tried to make up for his mistake my putting a good shot on Theo Fages but caught the Frenchman high and Saints kicked clear into touch.
This penalty would lead to the Saints taking the lead for the third time in the half. Jonny Lomax’s grubber kick behind the Giants defensive line was grounded by Mark Percival after he beat McIntosh to the ball. This time Coote failed to add the extras and at the break St Helens led by four.
HALF-TIME: Huddersfield Giants 12-16 St Helens
The opening stages of the second half were very open as both loads looked to make the fame their own and the Giants weren’t afraid to throw the ball around and offload carelessly.
Defensively however, Huddersfield were suspect and with three back-to-back penalties in the ruck, The Saints made up for their missed conversion in the first half and Coote added the two points from the boot to lead by a converted try.
Saints then extended their lead even further as Jermaine McGillvary attempted to offload inside his own in goal area, after a inch perfect kick from Lachlan Coote, but the ball bounced awkwardly and Mark Percival stretched his arm out onto the ball and the try was confirmed by the TMO. Coote was it four out of five from the boot at the score read 12-24 after 55 minutes.
To make matters worse, the Giants then suffered yet another injury as Suaia Matagi left the field for a Head Injury Assessment.
Matty English was then the next Giant to leave the field. He limped off after an off the ball clash with Matty Lees of St Helens which left the Giants with one player on the bench. That player was youngster Sam Hewitt, who has made less than a handful of appearances for the Giants.
The fitness levels of the home side then started to tell as Regan Grace grabbed Saint’s fifth try of the night. A high kick was dropped by Akuila Uate and from the resulting scrum the ball was shifted to the left hand edge and the Welshman grabbed his fifth try in six games. Coote was unsuccessful from the booth and Saints led by 16 with over 15 minutes remaining.
Huddersfield then believed they’d pulled a score back but Jordan Turner’s pass drifted forward before McGillvary dotted down in the corner.
Saints then all but secured another victory as Tommy Makinson rose highest above Akuila Uate to tap the ball down to Dominque Peyroux, who dived over the line with no Giants players around him. Coote converted five goals for the first time in his career to make the score 12-34.
The scoring hadn’t finished though and Jonny Lomax bagged a try of his own. Morgan Knowles attracted three defenders towards him, which allowed Fages to play the ball out the back to Lomax, who skipped through the gap and stretch the ball over the line. Coote made it six out of eight from the boot and Saints hit the 40 point mark.
With less than two minutes remaining, Huddersfield looked to grab a consolation try of their own and they thought they had done so through Jordan Turner. The decision went to the TMO but the centre’s foot brushed the touchline just before the ball was grounded over the line.
FULL-TIME: Huddersfield Giants 12-40 St Helens
MAN OF THE MATCH – Jonny Lomax:
The half-back fully deserved his try as he dictated the play for the Saints. His kicking game complemented the passing and running game of his fellow players and will be pleased to have got over the line after a disappointing first-half performance.
Darnell McIntosh, Jermaine McGillvary, Jordan Turner, Innes Senior, Akuila Uate, Lee Gaskell, Matt Frawley, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Kruise Leeming, Ukuma Ta’ai, Joe Wardle, Alex Mellor, Michael Lawrence.
Interchanges: Suaia Matagi, Oliver Roberts, Sam Hewitt, Matty English
Tries: McGillvary, Turner
Goals: Gaskell (2/2)
Lachlan Coote, Thomas Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Zeb Taia, Dominique Peyroux, Morgan Knowles.
Interchanges: Joseph Paulo, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Matty Lees, Jack Ashworth.
Tries: Thompson, Knowles, Percival (2), Grace, Peyroux, Lomax
Goals: Coote (6/8)