Huddersfield Giants’ Leroy Cudjoe marked his 300th career appearance in this hastily arranged fixture against Warrington Wolves, brought forward from round 21 after Wire’s original opponents Salford were left with just 13 fit players – the Wolves were awarded a 24-0 victory for the records.
Castleford, who had been scheduled to play Huddersfield, have been stood down for two weeks after 13 positive Covid tests on Tuesday.
The Wolves were looking to spoil the Huddersfield centre’s party as they tried to chase down second place in the table. They made an early start when they forced a drop-out and won a repeat set five minutes into the game.
Hooker Daryl Clark made that pay off with one of his trademark charges from dummy half after Chris Hill was tackled five yards from the Giants’ try line. Stefan Ratchford’s conversion saw Wire take a 6-0 lead.
They kept up the pressure on over the next period and Gareth Widdop nearly doubled the score when he went over by the posts – but the ball he received was from a forward pass. Then Josh Charnley was held-up in the corner, dislocating his left shoulder in the process.
Huddersfield had their own injury woes when half-back Lee Gaskell went off with a quad injury on the 20-minute mark. Just 10 minutes later, the Wolves’ Jason Clark was added to the history list, when he was taken off after damaging his wrist in a poor tackle which also saw him fail a subsequent head injury assessment.
But it was Huddersfield’s Jake Wardle who troubled the scoreboard keepers when he grounded the loose ball after Anthony Gelling failed to defuse an a Aiden Sezer kick into the corner. Sezer duly converted and the scores were level at 6-6.
Just minutes later, though, Wardle turned into the villain of the piece when he gave away a penalty for a dangerous tackle, giving Ratchford the chance to kick a goal from the 40m mark and letting the team in primrose and blue grab an 8-6 half-time lead.
James Gavet put the Giants into the lead immediately after the restart when he powered between two tacklers to put the ball down over the try line next to the posts. Sezer converted and Huddersfield were ahead 8-12.
Minutes later, Daryl Clark level the scores again after a being on the receiving end of a well worked Warrington move up the left wing following a break by Josh Thewlis from within their own half. Ratchford converted to restore the two-point lead at 14-12
Gelling, who had moved to the wing when Charnley was injured, was next to score approaching the hour mark, collecting a well-judged pass from Blake Austin after Huddersfield had given away a penalty for obstruction when bringing the ball out in their own 10m zone.
Ratchford couldn’t make the conversion, but Warrington were now leading 18-12.
The next crucial point in the game came with less than 10 minutes to play when Sezer kicked the ball into the stands after a kick-through ran dead.
There was only one score between the two teams, but Huddersfield were reduced to 12 men for the rest of the game.
On the next set, after the Wolves had marched downfield, Widdop calmly slotted a drop goal over to take the score to 19-12.
The game wasn’t finished, though. Widdop promptly kicked the ball behind the Giants’ defensive line and crossed only to be held up in a piece of superb defensive play by fullback Ash Golding.
Before the game ended, though, Oliver Wilson added to Huddersfield’s woes when he joined the walking, limping, wounded with an ankle injury in the last meaningful action of the game.
Warrington had indeed spoiled the Cudjoe party but, more importantly, ended the game knowing they could be in second before the night was through, if Wigan lost the evening’s second match against St Helens.
Warrington: Ratchford (2G, P), Charnley, Gelling (T), King, Thewlis, Austin, Widdop (DG), Hill, D Clark (2T), Cooper, Currie, Hughes, J Clark. Substitutes: Murdoch-Masala, Philbin, Davis, Walker.
Huddersfield: Golding, McGillvary, Jake Wardle (T), Cudjoe, McIntosh, Gaskell, Sezer (2G), Ta’ai, Moore, Hewitt, Joe Wardle, McQueen, Lawrence. Substitutes: English, Wilson, Tuner, Gavet (T).
Referee: Robert Hicks.
Half Time: 8-6
Full Time: 19-12
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens.