Archive for the ‘Huddersfield Giants’ Category

Huddersfield Giants 6 – 16 Catalan Dragons

September 26, 2009

Urgh.

That’s the only word to describe that game, especially if you’re a Giants fan. The atmosphere was flatter than Paris Hilton and the game did litle to change that. Although the Dragons really didn’t help the game’s flow with an ill-disciplined opening, the majority of the game should fall with the Giants who resorted to the most tedious, one dimensional gameplan which quite frankly deserved to get beaten. A lot of the Giants’ attacking play this year has revolved around the inside ball, particularly freeing up Brett Hodgson. Last night, the inside ball kept leading players into running into a red and gold wall. The Dragons completely dominated the arm-wrestle element of the game, and the Giants didn’t look like scoring at all.

It was a game populated with stupid plays. The Giants refused to deviate from the inside ball, and it never seemed to occur to the Giants to try and find a weak spot out wide (although some credit for this must go to the Dragons, because their defensive pattern was spot-on). when they actually got close to the Dragons’ line, they often tried a powerplay instead of just kicking into the corner. Even the little bit of magic that Luke Robinson provided for their try wasn’t enough to get them going. The Dragons weren’t exactly exemplary either, what with their ill-discipline (Jean-Phillipe Baile’s grab on Brett Hodgson to deny Clint Greenshields his second try deserves particular ire) and their fiery temperaments, but at least they tried to display some flair. The League Gods obviously approved, because once the Dragons hit the lead for the second time it became clear that the Giants had no way back into the game. 

Anyway, it all led to Huddersfield’s season ending with a whimper. They started off as The Next Big Club, but now serious questions have to be asked. They only won two of their final six games and three of those defeats (the Cup final, both playoff games) were their biggest games of the season. The way their attack suddenly turned anemic in the playoffs will be a major concern as well (to only concede 31 points in two games and still lose both games is a difficult one to understand). As for the Dragons, that’s three big away wins in a row and now they’re 80 minutes from the Grand Final. Not bad for a side who seemed hopelessly underperforming a few months ago. It will be very interesting to see if Leeds do the logical thing and pick them with the Club Call, because it doesn’t necessarily seem like a good idea now, does it?

Playoff Preview: Huddersfield Giants vs Catalan Dragons

September 25, 2009

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Previous Meetings: Huddersfield won both games convincingly this year, including a 30-8 season-opener that told us all to expect different things from both these sides this season. Their records against each other in Super League are split fairly evenly, although Huddersfield have big advantage at home (Les Cats have only won once at the Galpharm Stadium). 

Form: Huddersfield have lost three of their last five, although two of those were close-fought games at St Helens. The Dragons appeared to be stumbling to the finish line, but have won fairly convincingly in their last two games to indicate that they’re a force to be reckoned with again. 

Personnel Concerns: None for the Giants, now Scott Moore and Keith Mason have served their internal bans for misconduct. The Dragons hope to have Jamal Fakir back from injury.

Thoughts: The Giants seemed to lack any attacking threat against Saints last weekend, although it did sort of seem like one of those games, and after the opening twenty minutes they stood up and did their fair share of work defensively. They won’t want a repeat of that opening though, because the Dragons are not the sort of side who give up large leads.

The Dragons look to have regained some attacking mojo in the last few weeks, and they’ll need it because the Giants are a very strong defensive team. Both Dimitri Pelo and Vincent Duport looked lively in the Wakefield game and you suspect that the Dragons might need to take it to the Giants out wide. Both these sides have monster packs who could neutralize each other, but if one side gets on top in the forwards don’t doubt for a second that they’ll try to capitialize on the space out wide. 

What will really help the Giants this week will be having Scott Moore back. They were lacking direction in attack at St Helens and it is very important that he adds playmaking support from dummy-half to take some pressure off Luke Robinson and Liam Fulton. Thomas Bosc has been looking sharp of late and the Giants will need to shut him down. 

In Conclusion... If any team looks prepared to pull off an upset, it’s Les Cats. I still think Huddersfield will win, but I suspect it will be a very close game. If the Giants can keep the Dragons under wraps then that will go a long way to winning them the game. If they let them score frequently though, it will be interesting to see if a misfiring Giants attack can keep up.

St Helens 15 – 2 Huddersfield Giants

September 20, 2009

St Helens are increasingly becoming a bizarre and downright difficult team to follow. They stink up the joint for a few games (even in victory) but then look good in defeat to Leeds, only to follow that with a crapfest against the Catalan Dragons. Come their first playoff game against an in-form Huddersfield Giants, they suddenly start the game looking like a monster team and threaten to completely rip apart the Giants after twenty minutes, only to retreat into their shell and narrowly hold on for the remaining sixty minutes.

Well, actually ‘narrowly hold on’ isn’t really fair, because the Giants didn’t really look all that threatening. They kept making too many mistakes at crucial times and that cost them dearly. Nathan Brown must be getting a little worried, because the Giants haven’t exactly performed admirably in their last two high-pressure games (this and the Cup final). They seemed more than capable of holding their own during the attritional forward battles that dominated the majority of the game, but they lacked a cutting edge. Worse, in the opening quarter they were ripped apart by St Helens as Kyle Eastmond and Leon Pryce troubled them with runs at the line and nifty footwork.

As for Saints, it’s hard to know what to make. If they attack like they did in the opening quarter, they could quite easily win this competition, which of course leads to the question as to why they couldn’t maintain it for a whole game. However, the one thing that will worry opposition teams is that their defence looked pretty much impregnable. It’s often understated how important defence was to the St Helens sides that dominated in the recent past, but if they have confidence that the opposition can’t score, it in turn gives them more confidence to try more outlandish attacking and consequences be damned. Saints looked like they might be gaining some confidence back, which is a worrying thought for the teams left in the playoffs.

Playoff Preview: St Helens vs Huddersfield Giants

September 19, 2009

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Previous Meetings: St Helens won both League games, but the Giants won the cup semi-final. One of the Giants’ losses was with what was basically a reserve team just before the Cup Final.

Form: definitely favours the Giants, as Saints have been poor for a few weeks now. 

Thoughts: St Helens have really been worrying me in the last few weeks. I thought their loss to Leeds at least showed some improvement and fire, but then they went and followed that up with a horrible showing against Les Cats. If Huddersfield’s pack is on the ball, this could be a long night for St Helens.

In Conclusion... I really don’t know who to pick here, because I don’t know which St Helens side will show up.

Challenge Cup Final 2009: A Photo Essay

August 30, 2009

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In the end, it wasn’t as close or as tight as I thought it would be. It certainly wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. Everything about the day was enjoyable, except for the second half when it became abundantly clear that the Huddersfield Giants simply didn’t have what it took to beat a Warrington Wolves side that was a defensive juggernaut on the day. The speed and swarm that Wire possessed in defense turned practically every pass the Giants made into a hospital pass. On top of that, Lee Briers and Michael Monaghan played a vital role in producing one of the Wolves’ most composed performances of the year, and with about twenty minutes to go it became quite clear that the Wolves were entering shutdown mode, a move they played almost to perfection. 

It was a frantic start to the game as Brett Hodgson’s kick was charged down by Louis Anderson, which led to Richie Mathers opening the scoring. From the stands it seemed like Louis had knocked on in the process of picking up the ball, but looking at the TV replay it seems it was either his toe or a funny bounce that made it look that way. The Giants hit back when Shaun Lunt finished off a rather nice team move, but only after he had been denied by the video ref in one of a few calls that the people I was sitting with in the stadium thought were dubious (and the replay ddin’t make think it was any better of a call either). 

Warrington replying with two quick tries to Michael Monaghan and Chris Hicks, followed by the second disallowed try that the Giants thought they had scored (David Hodson’s finish wiped off due to obstruction) seemed to kill off the game for me. From that point onwards Huddersfield fell apart. The second half in particular saw them drop an outrageous amount of ball in key positions early in the tackle count. It’s debatable how much this even mattered though because whenever the Giants did hold onto the ball, all they did was run sideways and pass to a stationary man. This made it easier for a Warrington side who had brought their A-game defensively anyway, and meant that the second half turned into a rather dour battle. Warrington had shown touches of invention and class in the first half but (understandably) resorted to a more conservative gameplan in the second half. Although Vinnie Anderson and David Hodgson both got on the scoresheet, the second half was clearly never going to turn into a shootout, and as it became clear that the Giants didn’t have what it took it undermined the drama somewhat.

Were Huddersfield affected by the debatable video ref calls? Maybe. If they were, then it’s their own fault they lost because they should have just got on with it. I was really disappointed by the Giants because they’ve been a top team all year, and for them to flop so hard on the biggest stage yet was disappointing. Even so, they’re still top contenders to reach Old Trafford at this stage, so hopefully for them they’ll learn from this experience. 

Conversely, Warrington were a revelation. I knew they could muscle up as well as anyone, and I knew they were capable of fantastic attacking play, but I never expected them to be so… solid. Apart from Lunt’s two scoring attempts, they never really looked fazed at all, and they followed up conceding with two quick-fire tries. Their defence was brutal and completely choked Hudderfield out of the game. Even if Warrington don’t make the playoffs (and at this stage it looks unlikely) they’ve still won a trophy, and definitely have the foundations to be a challenger next year.

Like for Friday’s game, I took some photos with my camera phone. In fact, I took a lot of photos. See them after the break, and admire the story that they create.

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Huddersfield 40 – 16 Celtic Crusaders

May 3, 2009

This was a game that turned out to be fairly intriguing, although in a fairly passive kind of way. The main problem was that by the time it had become an even contest Huddersfield already had an insurmountable lead. Credit to the Crusaders for not giving in an folding completely, but they should be worried by a very poor first half and a lacklustre defensive effort.

The game succinctly summarised what has been Celtic’s main flaw this season, which is that they are clearly not an 80 minute team. They can play very well for patches but they always have at least one spell of mediocrity that costs them the game. In this game they had two, and one of them lasted for the entire first half. They also conceded some really woeful scores in the second half (especially the Finnigan try from a penalty – most under 11s sides feel bad about conceding that one) 

The Giants showed much attacking threat, but as Brain Carney alluded to in the commentary, the one thing they really seem to be lacking is a ruthless streak. With the start that they had, they could have quite easily pulled out to a fifty or sixty point win. As it was, they settled for a twenty-four point victory, and although that’s none too shabby you would have to feel that they might consider their second half performance a little disappointing. Nonetheless, they have accumulated a more than adequate number of crafty midfield types (Shaun Lunt the latest to really emerge) and with a talented backline and a dynamic pack, they are looking like potential contenders. Once they develop consistency and a killer instinct, they will be right up there.

Huddersfield Giants: Fresh start for the birthplace of the game

February 2, 2009

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It’s odd to think that a mere eight years ago the Giants were the laughing stock of Super League. Finishing bottom of Super League for four straight seasons (saved from relegation only by bureaucracy) with a side with journeymen players overlooked by small crowds engulfed within their large stadium. What made it sadder was that this was a club with great history, not to mention the club located in the birthplace of the game. It says a lot about how far the club have come since those earlier follies in the Super League era  that last season was probably their most disappointing since their return to the top flight.

After the increased levels of success they had in the years prior to last season (reaching the Challenge Cup final, reaching the playoffs for the first time) finishing in tenth place and sacking Jon Sharp didn’t really cut it in the achievement stakes. Therefore it’s understandable that this year the Giants seem to have pressed the reset button. With a new coach and an influx of new players, they will be looking for a return to the upward curve they were on prior to last year.

Huddersfield enter this season with a fairly solid squad with quite a few under-appreciated players. Their pack is a pretty mobile one, with Eorl Crabtree and Stephen Wild on the peripheries of international consideration. They also have a decent line up in the backs as well, with the incoming Brett Hodgson looking to add a touch of class to a usually dependable back-line featuring the likes of Kevin Brown, Martin Aspinwall and the emerging Michael Lawrence.

Huddersfield will almost certainly be targeting a playoff place and it’s definitely within their grasp. Their success will largely depend on how quickly they are able to gel as a unit. It’s also not entirely certain who will be partnering Luke Robinson in the halves, with their ludicrous plan to sign Todd Carney now aborted. Partly due to their early Super League disasters the Giants never seem to get the respect that they deserve, and they seem like a team that could get some success flying under the radar. The Giants’ main hope will be that Nathan Brown can put them back on the right track this season.

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