|Betfred Super League|
|St Helens (6) 12|
|Tries: Barba, Thompson Goals: Richardson 2|
|Huddersfield Giants (16) 16|
|Tries: McIntosh 2, Mellor Goals: Brough 2|
Huddersfield held on to upstage runaway Super League leaders St Helens in their Super 8s opener at Langtree Park.
Darnell McIntosh grabbed a double and Alex Mellor went over to put Huddersfield 16-0 up before Super League’s leading scorer Ben Barba replied just before the break.
Luke Thompson crashed over for Saints’ second with 21 minutes remaining.
Giants refused to yield again, consigning the hosts to a second straight defeat.
While a 14-game unbeaten run saw Justin Holbrook’s Saints side build a 10-point lead after 23 Super League games and reach the last four of the Challenge Cup, two defeats in five days has seen them crash out of one competition and start their Super 8s campaign in disappointing fashion.
Victory for Huddersfield moves them to within six points of Castleford in fourth after the Tigers fell short against Wigan on Friday.
Danny Brough inspired Giants’ fast start, helping set up McIntosh for the opening try before finding Mellor as he punched through a gap to grab the visitors’ second try inside 10 minutes.
McIntosh punished the uncharacteristically timid Saints again soon after, with an error from Barba – who is heavily linked to a move back to Australia’s NRL – handing the Giants possession just moments earlier.
Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Jonny Lomax combined well to send Barba over for the eagerly awaited reply, their only score of the first period.
As Saints piled the pressure on Huddersfield’s defence after the break, Thompson scored on the back of a repeat set midway through the second half to set up the anticipated fightback.
However, it proved all they had to show for their efforts as the slick attacking endeavour that had come to define their season eluded them at crucial times.
St Helens head coach Justin Holbrook:
“There were too many tired bodies, too many guys couldn’t get up for it, Sunday’s game was always going to knock us around. We came with the right intentions but there are a lot of mentally and physically tired boys and that’s when you make dumb errors.
“Things aren’t going our way at the moment but we’ve got to keep working hard and bounce back next week.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Huddersfield, who deserved to win. I didn’t think they looked that great in the second half but they didn’t need to.”
On Ben Barba’s future:
“There obviously continues to be a lot of talk and that will be ongoing.
“I know the club is looking at all that stuff at the moment and in the next couple of weeks we’ll know how it’s going.”
Huddersfield head coach Simon Woolford:
“We did get the job done. We didn’t play our best footy tonight, particularly from an attack point of view.
“We made it hard for ourselves. Once we scored those three tries, our attack was all over the shop and midway through the second half I thought we were ready to break.
“But full credit to the guys for the way they were able to find an extra gear. That win was based on pure effort and want to win.”
St Helens: Barba; Makinson, Costello, Percival, Swift; Lomax, Richardson; Amor, Roby, Thompson, Knowles, Taia, Wilkin.
Replacements: Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Lees.
Huddersfield Giants: Rankin; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Turner, McIntosh; Gaskell, Brough; Matagi, O’Brien, Ta’ai, Mellor, Roberts, Ferguson.
Replacements: Hinchcliffe, Clough, Roche, English.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas.