BATLEY Bulldogs were taught another harsh lesson as Huddersfield Giants stepped up their bid to ensure Super League survival with a 58-28 victory in the Qualifiers at Mount Pleasant.
A Ryan Brierley hat-trick, as well as braces for Leroy Cudjoe and Tom Symonds, helped the Giants move into the third and final guaranteed Super League spot with an 11-try victory.
The Bulldogs, who had already suffered 40 and 60-point losses in their opening two games, slip to the foot of the table.
Things could have looked even worse for the hosts after they trailed by 46 points at half-time, but a gutsy second-half comeback, in which the hosts outscored the visitors by five tries to two, has given departing head coach John Kear reason for optimism for his remaining games in charge.
“The first half was a one out of 10 performance and the second half was an eight out of 10 performance,” said Kear.
“I said in the changing rooms after that our play-offs started at half-time. They’ve taken a great deal from the second-half performance.
“The players are a lot more at ease with each other now. They’ve been nervy and edgy because when you’ve been walloped twice, it does affect you.
“I enjoyed the second half application and performance and I’m hoping to enjoy the remaining four games as well.
“We’ll prepare and plan to play how we played in the second half, against Featherstone Rovers.”
An encouraging opening sequence for the hosts saw Dom Brambani’s penalty goal give them an early lead, but the rest of the first half was one-way traffic as the Giants ran in nine unanswered tries.
First, Hull FC bound Jake Connor set up Leroy Cudjoe to score on the last tackle of the visitors’ first trip down the slope.
Brad Day’s knock on bringing the ball away from his own line soon after gifted the Giants with an opportunity to go over again. Jamie Ellis obliged, sending Gene Ormsby over next to the corner post with a long pass.
Then the floodgates well and truly opened for Ryan Hinchcliffe. The NRL-winning hooker strolled through a gaping hole at dummy half, before gifting Eorl Crabtree a rare try.
Bulldogs winger Alex Brown then made a mess of a routine catch on his own line, allowing Tom Symonds to increase the visitors’ lead further.
Connor was next to cross, dummying his way over for a simple try from close range.
Ellis’s short ball then sent Symonds over for his second, after an excellent 40/20 kick from the former.
Joe Wardle raced through for the Giants’ seventh try, before back-to-back efforts from hat-trick hero Brierley wrapped up the first-half scoring.
After the break, the reinvigorated Bulldogs hit back with the opening two tries of the second half.
Shaun Squires ripped the ball from Aaron Murphy’s grasp in mid-air for the first of his double, then Dave Scott side-stepped his way through the Giants defence shortly after.
Cudjoe briefly halted the hosts’ momentum with his second try of the afternoon, but Squires profited from another Murphy handling error in the in-goal area for his second.
James Brown’s wild offload then allowed Brierley to swoop up the loose ball and race 80 metres to complete his hat-trick.
But Kear’s men were to have the final say, crossing twice in the final few minutes through Chris Ulugia and Scott.
“Obviously I’m happy to win,” said Giants head coach Rick Stone.
“Our first half was pretty tidy, but I don’t think we managed the second half as well as we could have.
“Defensively, we’ve got to show a bit more resolve than we have. Our boys are still a little bit brittle at the moment and they’ve got to get tougher. But to be fair, the opposition were really good in the second half. They ran hard and they broke tackles.
“We wouldn’t be comfortable walking away saying we are happy with that sort of performance given the way the second half went.”
Kear added: “I was really upset about the first-half performance because we just weren’t there, physically or mentally.
“This was a winnable game, or certainly a game we could have challenged in.”