As we enter the crucial months of the season, there is still plenty to be excited about in the Betfred Super League.
Whether it be Castleford, Warrington and Wigan fighting for a spot in the end-of-season play-offs or Leeds, Hull KR Salford and Widnes fighting tough Championship competition to preserve their top flight status, so much is still undecided.
Over the next few days, we will be examining the season so far for all 12 Super League clubs, as they head into the ‘Super 8s split’. Next up is the Huddersfield Giants.
Position after 23 rounds: 5th
Record this year: W11 D1 L11 Pts23
Points: F427 A629 PD-202
Season in Summary
It’s certainly been a season of two halves for the Giants, who occupied bottom spot several times during the two-month search for a new coach following the dismissal of Rick Stone.
In came the inexperienced Simon Woolford to much scepticism, but he’s done an unbelievable job to steer them from 12th to 5th at the end of the regular season.
Nine wins in ten Super League games since the start of May have brought a new atmosphere to the John Smith’s Stadium, and after being rightfully concerned for their top flight status a few months ago, everything is looking up.
Best Result – Castleford Tigers (A)
Huddersfield sealed their top eight place with wins in consecutive weeks over Hull FC, Wigan and then, most impressively, Castleford at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle.
They were two tries down after ten minutes and things were looking bleak, but the fight that has characterised the last few months was in full show then as they mounted a comeback.
The forward pack was huge, Lee Gaskell and Danny Brough were at their best in the halves, and Jermaine McGillvary bagged a hat-trick in the 32-18 win.
Winger Jermaine McGillvary was England’s star player at the World Cup but until recently it had been a difficult season for him with the Giants, which wasn’t helped by injury. But with partner-in-crime Leroy Cudjoe back servicing him and the rest of the team in form too, he’s shown what he can do with consecutive hat-tricks heading into the Super 8s.
In the halves Danny Brough has struggled when given sole responsibility in their attack, but with Lee Gaskell in the form of his life under Woolford the Giants now have two quality halves that complement each other well and lead their side around the pitch.
There have been some impressive performers in the pack recently but one player who is having a bigger influence by the week is Matty English, who has made a high-impact breakthrough into Super League and is already tipped for England honours in the future.
Things to work on
There hasn’t been much to complain about in recent weeks but there is still scope for tightening a traditionally leaky defence, as was emphasised in the final game against Wakefield when they allowed their opponents 18 unanswered points in a game that should have been seen out better.
Huge strides have been made in that area, but concentration and 80-minute performances there will be key to more victories in the 8s for Super League’s second-worst defence over the 23 rounds.
What to expect going into the 8s
Huddersfield now sit as pole challengers to the top four, but it is still a six point gap which will require one of the sides above them to suffer a major blip in form.
That isn’t impossible though, and if they can keep their form up through the early rounds of the 8s and apply pressure on those above, there could be a race on.
An early defeat though, and their season is likely to peter out. Only St Helens away first…