Things we’ve missed; the click of the turnstile, the buzz in the street, the shouted order for beer across a crowded bar, and of course, exchanging banter with opposition fans. After just over fourteen months of empty stadiums, a limited number of fans were tonight allowed back into the grounds as the governments lockdown restrictions were eased and with 4,000 supporters in the Halliwell-Jones it was Warrington Wolves who were the hosts for the first crowd present televised match as they hosted the Huddersfield Giants.
Unbeaten in six outings it was the Wolves who were big favourites for the win to maintain their spot in the top half of the table, and hopefully pick up a couple of places, against a Giants side with one win in their last four outings which has seen them in ninth and scrapping about for points to get their season underway.
The home crowd was soon silenced as the Giants took the lead on two minutes. Ricky Leutele and Darnell McIntosh combined with the winger flinging a speculative pass inside which was picked up by Lee Gaskell and dotted down. Aidan Sezer did well to convert from wide.
In the blink of an eye the Giants were in for their second on ten minutes, again from the hands of Gaskell as the full-back took a Cogger pass and dropped the shoulder for a far too easy walk to the line. Sezer added the conversion for a shock 12-0 lead.
The Giants absorned the Warrington pressure before, on thirty-four, working the ball downfield with Jermaine McGillvary losing his footing by the right touchline but managing to stretch for the line to score. Another superb conversion from Sezer made it 18-0, the Wire had no answers to a tough first half examination.
A high tackle from Philbin on the quicksilver Sezer gifted the Giants talisman a simple two-point penalty for a 20-0 half time lead, Warrington simply not at the races as the Giants had their best half of rugby so far in 2021.
Warrington started the second half as the Giants had the first with Greg Inglis managing to force the ball onto the ground despite the attention of three defenders. Widdop added the goal to reduce the arrears to fourteen points.
On fifty, on the back of a penalty, the Wolves went in again through Daryl Clark as he tapped the ball and went over from ten metres. Widdop added the conversion, the Wolves now back within eight of the visitors.
Widdop added a fifty-fifth minute penalty to narrow the margin to a single converted try.
In the space of eighteen second half minutes the Wolves turned the game around with Josh Thewlis on hand to take a wide pass and dive over in the corner for the third Warrington try of the night. Widdop couldn’t add the conversion but it was now clear that it was the Giants who had no second half answers.
On sixty-six the Giants stopped the rot with Kenny Edwards crashing the line and managing to get the ball onto the ground off a Cogger pass. Sezer put his conversion attempt wide of the uprights.
Warrington were given offside as they tried to get a rush and stop the Giants kicker to seal the win with a drop goal. Instead of a one-pointer it was Sezer who kicked the penalty goal for an eight-point lead to secure the victory.
Warrington kicked their own penalty through Widdop with just under two remaining to cut the deficit to six points. But the clock ran out on the home sides second half as McIntosh diffused an Austin kick on the last tackle and the final hooter sounded on a famous Giants win.
This was almost the archetypal ‘game of two halves’ but somehow the Giants nerve held and despite being a poor second best in the second half they managed to hang on for the important win. Very few would have had the Giants down for causing an upset but a superb first half performance laid the foundations and a rear guard defensive effort in the second half got the win.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Thewlis (T), Inglis (T), Mamo, Charnley, Austin, Widdop (4G), Hill, Clark D (T), Cooper, Currie, King, Clark J. Subs: Philbin, Mulhern, Davis, Akauola.
Huddersfield Giants: Gaskell (2T), McGillvary (T), Wardle, Leutele, McIntosh, Cogger, Sezer (5G), Lawrence, Cunningham, Greenwood, Edwards (T), Jones, Yates. Subs: English, Trout, McQueen, O’Brien.
Referee: James Child.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 0-16, 0-18, 0-20 : HT : 4-20, 6-20, 10-20, 12-20, 14-20, 18-20, 18-24, 18-26, 20-26 : FT.