I’m putting my neck on the line here – but I’m convinced that Huddersfield will be in the Super 8s come August.
Having seen the Giants in their last four matches; with two victories over Leeds sandwiched between two narrow defeats against Wigan and Catalans, I’ve been nothing short of impressed by what they have offered in their recent outings.
Keiron Cunningham said today that Huddersfield’s current Super League position is fake, and with the Giants currently 11th, I have to agree with him on that. Admittedly, if I had been asked if Huddersfield would salvage their season following a shocking performance against Wakefield, I would have probably not given them any hope whatsoever. At the time they weren’t just losing, but they were playing without the composure and vigour we have learnt to expect from Paul Anderson’s side.
But since then, while results didn’t turn around instantly, they have gradually got better, to a point that they look like the Giants of old.
I don’t buy into the opinion that a team is ‘too good’ to go down, but the Giants have demonstrated in their recent outings that they are improving and capable of earning the results they require to pull themselves out of a summer scrap for survival, which just can’t be said of the Leeds Rhinos.
It largely comes down to the upturn in form of some key players; Leroy Cudjoe has not only improved in recent weeks but has looked like the player that set the 2013 World Cup alight for England. As a result, the Giants are exploiting the undoubted qualities of Jermaine McGillvary more often, with his input becoming more and more apparent.
Meanwhile, Ryan Brierley has improved with every single game he has played at full-back, with his incredible support play and line-break ability causing more problems for opposition defences. But most importantly, Danny Brough is well and truly back to his best. He put on a masterclass against Leeds in the Challenge Cup last week; assisting numerous tries, scoring one himself and kicking the Rhinos to death throughout. He has his swagger back, and when he’s in this sort of form, he can single-handedly win a game.
Beyond that, the amount of ‘soft’ tries Huddersfield were conceding from short range was staggering early on in the season. That was still apparent against the Rhinos when Liam Sutcliffe crashed over, but they have certainly improved in that aspect.
The key for Huddersfield now is to improve their defence down the middle. Despite improving results, they have still conceded 20 points per game on average in the last six, which is still way too many, although their pack littered with young prospects including Nathan Mason and Josh Johnson certainly looked the strongest it has done against Catalans, with new signing Sebastine Ikahihifo injecting further presence in defence.
They can be exploited defensively down the middle, but if their 11-0 victory over Warrington meant anything, it was that they are finding their defensive groove again slowly.
Although time is against them in the race for the top eight, I think they have enough about them to make it, especially with Widnes’ current form, and should they have a good run in the Challenge Cup, 2016 wouldn’t be a bad year at all.