It was third v eleventh at the John Smith's Stadium this afternoon as Huddersfield Giants welcomed the Tigers from Castleford.
The hosts hoped to continue the form that has seen them lose just one game of the four they’ve played so far. The visitors record was the reverse, and they were seeking back-to-back wins to call a halt to the stuttering start of the ´New Cas Era´, made so much of in pre-season publicity.
Our pre-match Twitter Poll couldn´t choose between the two sides, despite the big difference in league positions.
Cas had first use of the ball, but couldn't repeat last week's spectacular start against Hull. Instead, the Giants lost the ball to the Tigers on the half-way line in their first set. But nothing came of it when Huddersfield's strong defence pushed Mahe Fonua into touch.
Prop Daniel Smith managed an impressive break when the same defence opened in front of him on Cas's next set, but his at 32, the big prop didn't have the legs to make it to the tryline and the attack petered out.
When the match reached the seven-minute mark, though Woen Trout powered through Smith and Jake Truemanand to open the scoring for the Giants. Will Pryce's conversion gave the home team a 6-0 advantage.
In a worrying sign for the visitory, the side in gold and claret pressed again on their next attack, winning a goal line drop-out when Greg Eden was forced to carry the ball into touch-in-goal.
They won a third set when Derrell Olpherts knocked on going for an intercept. The pressure told when Chris McQeen beat Eden to an attacking high kick and passed to Luke Yates, who crossed between the posts, making Pryce's conversion a formality and taking the scoe to 12-0 with 15 minutes gone.
It was still early in the game, but Castleford were looking more like the team of the first three rounds than the one who beat Hull last week.
And it got worse for the visitors when Trueman was sinbinned after blocking Chris McQueen who was chasing a promising kick into the Castleford in-goal. The try was prevented, but Pryce kicked the resulting penalty for a 14-0 scoreline.
After more relentless pressure on the Tigers' 12-strong defence Jermaine McGillvary found himself with space in front of him on the right-hand touchline and crossed in the corner. Pryce missed the conersion but Huddersfield led 18-0 with five minutes left of the half.
Cas got a rare attacking chance after winning a scrum from a Giants kock-on 15 metres out, followed by Levi being yellow-carded for a late hit on Joe Westerman. But they failed to take advantage of the position – even after getting a set restart – losing the ball and knocking on themselves in the same position as the earlier scrum.
After 40 minutes of one-way traffic, the half-time whistle came as welcome relief for the visitors while the Giants will have been quietly satisfied.
There were signs of hope for the Tigers after the break though. Just two minutes into the second half, Liam Watts broke and passed inside to Trueman who grounded the ball by the posts, giving both an easy conversion to Gareth O'Brien and first points to Castleford at 18-6, before the home team returned to full strength when Levi returned from the Sin Bin.
A more urgent Tigers attack then forced a drop-out in the 17th minutes, tackling the Fartown defence over the line.
Looking a different side, Castleford clocked up the next points when Mahe Fonua powered hard and low through two defenders to get the ball down and O'Brien added the extra. At 18-12 it was now beginning to look like a competition in the second half.
Castleford were awarded another penalty after McGillvary was sin-binned for a late tackle and shoulder charge on O'Brien.
Eden took immediate advantage of the disparity in numbers to run in for a try in the left corner and O'Brien slotted over from the touchline to bring the game level at 18-18.
The winger nearly made it two tries in two minutes for himself with another clear run down the touchline after beating Pryce, but as the defence moved to block him he passed inside to Trueman who duly dotted down. O'Brien brought the score to 18-24.
Castleford's George Lawler was the next player in the sin bin on 61 minutes for lifting in the tackle. It was Huddersfield's turn to take immediate advantage, moving the ball rapidly to the right for Ricky Leutele to dart through and score. A Pryce conversion from out wide levelled the scores again at 24-24.
With less than 10 minutes to go Leutele crossed again out wide after a Huddersfield penalty for an off-the-ball tackle by Fonua. With Pryce's touchline conversion attempt sailing between the posts, the Giants were back in front at 30-24.
Leutele completed his hat-trick as the clock hit 78 minutes, beating two defenders and touching down just inside the touch-in-goal line. Pryce made no mistake from the touchline and the resurgent Giants were 12 ahead at 36-24.
When the final hooter blew, the hosts clocked up a clear win after a spirited Castleford fightback in the second half pushed them all the way, but wasn't enough.
Huddersfield Giants: Lolohea; Senior, Leutele (3T), Cudjoe, McGillvary (T, SB 52); Russell, Pryce (5G, 1P); Trout, Levi (T, SB 36), Hill, McQueen, Roberts, Yates (T). Subs: English, Greenwood, O'Brien, Ikahihifo.
Castleford Tigers: O’Brien (4G); Eden (T), Turner, Fonua (T), Olpherts; Trueman (SB 27, 2T), McShane; Smith, Lawler, Matagi, Sutcliffe, Blair, Westerman. Subs: Robb, Hepi, Edwards, Watts
Half Time: 18-0.
Full Time: 36-24.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 14-0, 18-0. Half Time. 18-4, 18-6, 18-10, 18-12, 18-16, 18-18, 18-22, 18-24, 22-24, 24-24, 28-24, 30-24, 34-24, 36-24. Full Time.
Referee: James Child.
Venue: John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield