Huddersfield Giants show all the ingredients for Challenge Cup success as Hull KR silenced

If this was Tony Smith’s last dance in a big game for Hull KR then there was little point even packing his smart shoes.

The Robins started both halves miserably against Huddersfield and threatened to be nilled until Shaun Kenny-Dowall registered a try in what was perhaps the longest video-try referral seen all year.

From start to finish, Rovers lacked the energy and enthusiasm of their opponents. But why?

Both teams had endured a gruelling Easter period – as had ten other Super League sides – but Ian Watson’s men looked rejuvenated and with a point to prove.

Few gave Huddersfield a chance to do anything at the start of 2022, but Watson had recruited shrewdly with champion signings such as Theo Fages and Chris Hill, whilst the breakthrough of young stars in the form of Owen Trout, Oliver Wilson and Oliver Russell gave the Giants a recipe for success.

Add in the ingredients of a superb owner that loves the club inside and out and the stable foundations within the community and the Giants really have been mixing a stunning dish.

That stunning dish came together like a MasterChef bonanza on Saturday evening as Hull KR were left licking the scraps.

It was unusual to witness a Challenge Cup semi-final crowd go flat so quickly, but Huddersfield’s relentless onslaught in defence snuffed out any potential opportunities, which left the Rovers supporters seemingly agitated.

The anticipation prior to the game amongst the 6,000-plus fans from East Yorkshire was quelled in superb fashion as cries of ‘Fartown’, with that infamous cowbell ringing from the vociferous Giants support, soon dominated proceedings at Elland Road.

Hull KR clearly missed veteran Lachlan Coote, though his replacement Will Dagger performed admirably, with a number of the young Rovers players appearing as though they had been caught in headlights.

Halfback Jordan Abdull left the field with a quad injury as Elliot Minchella was also taken off, whilst the decision to risk Kane Linnett – who had a ruptured bicep – didn’t pay off when he left the field during the opening exchanges.

Too many times the Robins looked lost in attack against a steely Huddersfield rearguard, epitomised by Jermaine McGillvary’s shutting down of Ryan Hall in tremendous fashion throughout.

McGillvary himself underlined his England international credentials with one of his best games in a Huddersfield shirt under Ian Watson, taking his try brilliantly after breaking through some desperate Rovers defence.

Watching Watson on the sidelines as this happened was an interesting image to behold.

Whilst most coaches prefer to sit in the stands giving instructions to assistant coaches in the dugout, Watson prefers to be among the coaching and playing staff, giving his thoughts directly.

It’s football-esque and the message is loud and clear – it comes from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

It’s also clear to see just how together this Huddersfield club is at present.

On the field, Watson’s chargers celebrate every minor win as though they have won the game, whilst off it, there is harmony from top to bottom.

The transformation from perennial strugglers to genuine silverware hunters is extraordinary in such a short space of time – remember Watson only took over at the John Smith’s Stadium ahead of the 2021 season.

This was the coach who took Salford Red Devils to a Challenge Cup Final and Grand Final and now he’s working his magic at Huddersfield.

For Hull KR, it will be sore for several weeks, but they will need to get over it sooner rather than later if they are going to send Smith off with some kind of success.

Too many players were off their game and Smith himself called on his playmakers to ‘step up’ with a lateral attack and lack of creativity harming any chance of making the final in a fortnight’s time.

Getting beaten is one thing, but to do so in the fashion that they did will have brought back memories of that 50-0 defeat to Leeds Rhinos at Wembley in 2015.

Well-placed in Super League, however, this Rovers side is made of sterner stuff this time around and under Smith they have one of the best coaches in the country.

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