Just under a month ago, Huddersfield Giants were preparing for the ‘Big One 3’ at the home of the Champions, in which they had the chance to prove to the Rugby League world that they had the credentials to challenge the likes of Wigan and Warrington for a major trophy.
Now, four games and three defeats later, the Giants are clinging on to fourth spot and find themselves in the kind of form associated more with mid table mediocrity than title contenders.
A heavy defeat to Wigan was followed by what appeared to be a response against Crusaders at the Shay. That was soon forgotten when they went to Warrington and were crushed in the first half, leaving them dazed by their inability to start strongly against the big guns.
Albeit, a hard fought comeback nearly gave the Giants victory in Cheshire, but they were ultimately edged out by a classy Warrington side.
Such displays could well have been associated with the absence of key scrum half Danny Brough, who damaged ankle ligaments in Huddersfield’s defeat of Castleford in early June. But, with the influential ex Scotland half back returning to the fray for their West Yorkshire-derby with Bradford, it seemed the Giants had the perfect opportunity to put pressure back on the top two.
However, the Giants proved unaffected by Brough’s return, and were put to the slaughter by a Bradford side who, up till now, had struggled to hit any kind of form throughout the year. A 36 – 0 defeat by the Bulls has left Giants’ coach, fans and players pondering their incapability to perform when playing wet weather rugby.
It was by no means just the weather which caused Bradford to come out victors at Odsal. They ran stronger and faster, and managed to keep hold of the ball for much longer periods than the Giants did. Huddersfield’s usually unflappable goal line defence was unusually suspect, and they made the same errors which proved so costly the previous week.
With the business end of the season fast approaching, Nathan Brown has arguably the hardest task he has faced since joining Huddersfield nearly three years ago. He has to ensure his team start to do the basics right before they can start to think about challenging for trophies.
He also needs to be able to get their usually formidable pack firing, because in recent weeks, they have been pedestrian compared to their dominating opponents. Despite all the skills players such as Danny Brough possess, even he can’t prove a match winner if his pack aren’t forcing their way out of their own half!
To rub salt into their wounds, captain Kevin Brown is set for a spell on the sidelines, meaning Brown must find someone capable of filling his boots and partnering Brough in the half backs. However, he has a number of contenders who are more than capable of playing their part.
He has tried both Scott Grix and Leroy Cudjoe in the half backs over recent weeks, and he could go this way once again. On the other hand, he handed Gregg McNally his first Super League start against Crusaders, and his solid performance at full back could well have earnt him the right to another stint in the side.
One thing is for sure, and that is the Giants have a lot of work to do if they are to compete for the two competitions that they’re still involved in, starting with a do or die clash against Castleford this coming Sunday.
If Brown can help the Giants overcome their faults in the big games and help rediscover their early season form, then they are still in with a massive shout of winning a trophy this season. But, if they continue their form from the past month into the play offs, then they are more than likely set to crash and burn! Only time will tell.