In a dress rehearsal for the Challenge Cup final, the two sides who win through their semi-finals last weekend were pitted against one another in Round Twelve of Super League as the Huddersfield Giants played hosts to the Wigan Warriors but with both sides making many changes to their line-ups, neither wanted to give any advantage to their opponents.
The two points were the main concern with a win for the Warriors putting them two points clear at the top of the table and should the Giants take the spoils then they would be up to fourth just three points adrift of the top two sides.
Both coaches made many changes from last weekend´s sides, the Giants without Cudjoe, McQueen, Yates, Hill and McGillvary amongst others while Wigan made a whole host of changes with Field, Marshall, Cust, Farrell, Bateman, and Smithies amongst those missing from the side who overcame Saints last weekend.
It was the perfect opening for the Giants on five minutes with fast hands from the back of the scrum which saw Louis Senior on the overlap to go in at the corner. Olly Russell did well to guide his touchline kick through the posts in a difficult wind for 6-0.
Senior should have been in again on nine minutes as he went into the same corner, but the video referee decided that he was in touch as he grounded. Wigan dodged a bullet.
The Giants were carving the Warriors apart and Tui Lolohea should have scored on thirteen, but he passed at the last moment and the ball went to ground. The Giants dominating but should have been much further ahead on the scoreboard.
On eighteen Joe Greenwood was penalised for obstructing a Wigan player who was chasing a kick and he saw the referees yellow card instructing him to take a ten-minute rest.
The twelve men extended their lead on twenty-six thanks to a barnstorming run from Ricky Leutele who took three Wigan tacklers over the line with him after gathering a Jack Ashworth pass. Russell added the conversion for 12-0, the Giants well worth their lead.
Wigan scrambled their way back into the game with Iain Thornley and Bevan French keeping the ball alive with offloads to put Sam Halsall free to dove over from two metres out. Harry Smith added the extras to halve the arrears as half time approached.
Three minutes after the restart Senior was in for his second of the night, rolling over the line after taking a long Lolohea pass when Wigan spilled the ball close to their own line. Russell kicked superbly from the touchline for his third of the night for 18-6.
On fifty-two Jake Wardle scooped up a low pass and grounded spectacularly by the right corner flag to extend the Giants lead as they controlled the start of the second half. Russell was unable to add the extras, his first miss of the night.
Just after the hour mark Halsall picked up his second of the night after the Giants line broke looking for the intercept and the winger found himself in an ocean of space to cross. Smith pulled his kick well wide of the posts, the Warriors twelve points behind.
A lucky bounce was collected by Abbas Miski and found the youngster Matty Nicholson on his inside in support to cross by the left upright. Smith added the conversion, the Warriors back in the game at 16-22.
Nine minutes from time Sam Hewitt picked up a delightful Theo Fages grubber kick to drop over the line for a score. Russell couldn´t add the conversion.
On seventy-four Matty Nicholson got his second, on debut, as he managed to juggled the ball on the line and force it onto the ground by the posts, the video referee agreeing with the on field official and awarding the try. Smith added the conversion for 22-26, Giants nerves now in tatters.
The Giants scored the last points of the game as Louis Senior completed his hat-trick as he stooped to score in the corner. Russell added the conversion for a famous 32-22 win.
While the meeting between these two sides at the Tottenham Stadium in a couple of weeks’ time will be a totally different matter, the Giants will take great confidence from tonight´s win as they move up the table into fourth. Wigan will have learned little from the defeat except that resting over half of your regular first teamers means you are likely to lose, as Saints found out earlier in the season.
Huddersfield Giants: Lolohea, Golding, Wardle (T), Leutele (T), Senior L (2T), Russell (3G), Fages, Greenwood (SB on 18), O´Brien, Wilson, Ashworth, Hewitt (T), English. Subs: Levi, Lawrence, Trout, Mason.
Wigan Warriors: French, Halsall (2T), Thornley, Bibby, Miski, Astley, Smith (3G), Singleton, O´Neill, Ellis, Isa, McDonnell, Partington. Subs: Mago, Havard, Shorrocks, Nicholson (2T).
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, (SB), 10-0, 12-0, 12-4, 12-6 : HT : 16-6, 18-6, 22-6, 22-10, 22-14, 22-16, 26-16, 26-20, 26-22, 30-22, 32-22 : FT.
Referee: Tom Grant.