Why Huddersfield Giants are genuine threat to top two in Grand Final race

Sometimes, when watching a Rugby League match, it’s easy to jump to the wrong conclusion.

I did that last Thursday night, when Castleford Tigers drew level, 10-10, in the 46th minute.

It came shortly after Danny Richardson had kicked a superb 40-20 for the Tigers and followed that up with a nice assist for a try from Alex Mellor on the first subsequent tackle.

“That’s a turning point. Castleford will go on to win this game,” I said, to anyone who was prepared to listen.

Fortunately, not many people did, because I could hardly have been more wrong.

Four minutes later Greg Eden dropped a Theo Fages bomb, the ball was snapped up by Leroy Cudjoe, who was right on the spot, and he touched down immediately for the Giants to take the lead again with their third try.

That was another turning point and this time it was a genuine one.

Less than three minutes later, Huddersfield were in again, this time when Toby King was put through a gap by Fages, Tui Lolohea supported the break, Oliver Russell kicked the conversion and the Giants were twelve points ahead.

Fifteen minutes later they were 26 points ahead after the Giants scored three more tries through Ricky Leutele, Louis Senior and Chris McQueen against a Castleford team that had looked exhausted much earlier in the game.

Greg Eden is one of my favourite players in Super League because he is capable of creating and scoring some great, long-distance tries. But unfortunately he can also make basic errors that sometimes turn out to be very expensive. And that was his fate on Thursday night.

After Saturday’s result in Perpignan, the Tigers have fallen out of the top six, with Salford taking their place. The two teams play each other next Monday at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle and it could be a crucial match for determining which one of them will succeed in finishing in the top six. It’s such a shame that the Tigers look as though they will be going into that game severely depleted, as they were last Thursday night.

As for the Giants, they look to be playing somewhere near to their full potential, while now looking certain to finish in third place, although if they do, they might then face a tricky play-off clash against Salford, depending on how results fall over the last three rounds of the competition.

Most pundits are predicting a Grand Final between St Helens and Wigan. While that would certainly be a game to look forward to, it would be good to have a team reaching Old Trafford that has not won the title before and the Giants certainly look to be in the box seat to achieve that aim, if any club is going to do so.

On Thursday they were helped by the return of Ricky Leutele and they were stiffened up front by the presence of Chris Hill, who I still think was one of the outstanding buys in Super League this season. They look a well-balanced side and, crucially, they are getting most of their leading players onto the field. They could be a genuine danger to the two teams above them on the road to Old Trafford as long as Luke Yates and Danny Levi, who both play such key roles in the Giants’ team, are able to avoid injury in the last three games of the regular season.

The one thing that mystifies me about the Giants, however, is their inability to draw a decent crowd.

An attendance of 4,168 for a clash between two Yorkshire rivals when both came into the clash from positions in the top six is depressing for anyone who believes strongly in the attractions of our sport.

The Giants are playing some great rugby and they reached the Challenge Cup Final this year. But that achievement appears to have had no impact at all on their attendances.

On the other hand, the football club they share the stadium with seems capable of drawing 20,000 people to see some decidedly modest fare. I struggle to understand that disparity, particularly when the Giants have a group of highly personable and eloquent players, most of whom should be very easy to promote.

I have no insights into how the club does promote itself, but whatever it’s doing, there must surely be a better way.

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