One of the biggest stories of the close season, the capture of Ian Watson as coach of the Huddersfield Giants from the Salford Red Devils, had reached its judgement day as the Giants took on Hull FC at Emerald Headingley in the first of Sunday’s double headers as they looked for a winning start for their new coach Brett Hodgson.
After the two sides finished either side of half-way in the 2020 table, FC were slight favourites with the bookies but with the Giants getting just a two-point start on the coupon there was very little to choose between the two sides on paper.
A team announcement shock was that Aiden Sezer was missing for the Giants with a niggling injury that wasn’t worth the risk. They did debut six new players while Hull FC fielded a very similar side to that which finished the 2020 season, just new signing Josh Reynolds getting his debut in black & white after signing from Wests Tigers.
The watchword for both sides in the early encounters appeared to be ‘patience’ as they went five drives and a kick while probing their opponents without any real chances emerging.
Jake Connor broke the deadlock on seventeen in customary style when he took a Danny Houghton pass fifteen from the line and dummied to the Giants defence, dipping his shoulder and going in on the angle. Marc Sneyd slotted his touchline kick between the uprights for a 6-0 lead.
On twenty-one, weak Giants tacklers allowed Josh Griffin to bust the line from ten for FC’s second try of the game. Sneyd added his second, sneaking it inside the left post, to double the lead.
After repeat sets of six on the FC line, the Giants should really have opened their account with thirty on the clock, but the FC defence held strong and denied them once again.
Putting aside a five-minute spell in the middle of the half, when the Airlie Birds crossed the whitewash twice, there was very little to choose between the two sides in a ‘chess like’ first half where defences were king.
On forty-three the Giants were penalised for being offside twelve from their line and Sneyd accepted the invitation to extend the lead to three tries at 14-0.
Huddersfield’s afternoon went from bad to worse when Kenny Edwards was sin-binned on forty-eight for a professional foul, blocking the FC chaser of a kick through.
The Giants rode the storm while they had a one-man deficit but on the hour mark Josh Reynolds won the race to ground a Sneyd grubber into the Giants goal area for his debut four-pointer. Sneyd added the conversion and the Airlie Birds had their first points of the season.
Another Sneyd penalty, after the Giants were again offside, twisted the knife further at 22-0.
The Giants avoided being nilled on sixty-eight when Ricky Leutele took an Edwards pass to step inside and roll over the line for a four-pointer. The conversion attempt hit the upright, at 22-4 it was only consolation.
On seventy-six Jermaine McGillvary had a try ruled out by the referee as he failed to ground the ball over the line, but on the final hooter James Gavet found a massive gap to run in for a second late try. Ollie Russell added the conversion for a final score of 10-22.
Another two rusty teams at the start of the 2021 competition but after an initial arm-wrestle it was the black and whites who took charge and punished some lax defending to romp to an unassailable lead. Neither coach will be happy with their sides eighty-minute performances but will find some things that they can build upon for their next games, and it will be Brett Hodgson wearing the smiles as his side sit close to the top of the fledgling table.
Hull FC: Connor (T), Swift, Griffin (T), Tuimavave, Fonua, Reynolds (T), Sneyd (4G), Sao, Houghton, Satae, Savelio, Ma’u, Lane. Subs: Bowden, Cator, Scott, Taylor.
Huddersfield Giants: Gaskell, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Leutele, McIntosh, Cogger, Russell (G), Yates, Cunningham, Gavet (T), Greenwood, McQueen, Jones. Subs: Wilson, Edwards (DB on 48), English, O’Brien.
Referee: Rob Hicks.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0 : HT : 14-0, 18-0, 20-0, 22-0, 22-4, 22-8, 22-10 : FT.