The tears were running down Ryan Brierley’s face as what should have been a fairytale start to his Superleague career, a hatrick against Wigan, was denied by two drop goals from Matty Smith before Dan Sarginson secured the winning try that assured the Warriors avoided a giant killing.
Wigan were lucky though. Their script for tonight read whitewash and in the first ten minutes Huddersfield looked to have read from that script. Anthony Gelling got Wigan’s first try which Matty Smith converted as Wigan settled into what looked to be an easy dominance of the game. That was their mistake. In easing on the throttle, they showed a contempt for Huddersfield. This woke the Giants up and set Brierley off for his fantastic debut.
Having finally made it to the big time, Brierley showed that Huddersfield need a better calibre if they want to keep him. The Giants did that, and, on another night against another team, they would have won. Not against Wigan, and not on home turf.
This was a bare knuckle tension game if ever there was one. The kind that every sports fan wants to see, where every play of the ball has your heart thumping in your chest and the long seconds of the clock stretch off into eternity. In the dramatic fashion such a game should end in a draw, but neither side was going to settle for a draw.
As the second half bore on, Huddersfield saw their lead destroyed by a try from John Bateman only to regain it with Brierley’s hatrick. Then Matty Smith secured Wigan’s third try and converted it to level the score before giving Wigan the lead with a masterful drop goal.
Huddersfield responded with one of their own from Danny Brough after Wigan squandered a penalty, going for four uncertain points instead of a safe two. Smith then scored a second drop goal before Sarginson’s try, run behind the line in the style of a triumphal parade secured the win. The hooter blew even before Smith scored a now symbolic final conversion to make it 26-19 to the home side.
A great game, two great sides and a sense that Huddersfield might yet stay up this season. If they want to keep Brierley, who suffered the cruel fate of having to share his limelight with Smith, Huddersfield will need to stay up. Even so a few more games like this for the newcomer and the big clubs will be relentless in pressing their interest.