Brett Hodgson played a starring role as the Warrington Wolves booked their place in the Challenge Cup semi-final with an emphatic 44-24 victory over the Huddersfield Giants at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Warrington have often saved their best rugby for cup ties against the Giants in recent years: with fans able to look back on their 25-16 final victory in 2009, their resounding 60-4 triumph in the following year's fifth round and their convincing 33-6 victory in last year's semi-final as particular highlights. This occasion was no different.
Warrington full-back Hodgson was very much to the fore, creating many opportunities for his team mates while entering the back line, in addition to several crucial try-saving tackles.
Hodgson may have gained the headlines, but the whole Wolves squad deserve credit for their efforts in limiting a potentially dangerous Huddersfield outfit, dominating possession and territory while barely giving their opponents a sniff.
The Wolves started as they meant to go on, obtaining a tight grip on the contest from the outset, with their early efforts being rewarded with an outstanding try after 11 minutes, as a sublime one-two between Ben Westwood and stand off Lee Briers opened a gap for the Warrington second rower, who offloaded for Paul Wood to score a try under the posts which was converted by Hodgson.
Two tries in two minutes followed soon after as Huddersfield's lacklustre tackling and continuous stream of unforced errors started to take their toll. Two penalties indirectly led to tries; first, after 15 minutes Westwood's second row partner Trent Waterhouse made the most of his size difference against Huddersfield's diminutive scrum half Luke Robinson, running straight through his attempted tackle to score an unconverted try from 20 metres out.
Two minutes later, another penalty eventually allowed Mickey Higham to squeeze over from dummy half for a soft try, this time converted by Hodgson.
Warrington extended their lead to 20 points seven minutes later; Chris Riley touching down in the corner after being fed by an offload from his centre Simon Grix, who was unable to beat his brother, Huddersfield full back Scott in the one on one situation.
Despite their lack of possession, the visitors were able to demonstrate their clinical offensive abilities, replying with two converted tries, first from Shaun Lunt burrowing over from dummy half, then a barnstorming try from Dale Ferguson who ran 40 metres to score, brushing aside Hodgson on the way, with Danny Brough's conversions leaving the scoreline at 20-12 after 35 minutes.
Huddersfield were on the ascendancy, but the Wolves struck a crucial blow on the stroke of half time with a well worked try from 60 metres out, as Hodgson collected Gareth Carvell's offload and passed to Chris Bridge, who in turn released Joel Monaghan, who scored under the posts after being 30 metres out wide.
Hodgson's subsequent conversion left the half-time scoreline at an unassailable 26-12.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, as both forced and unforced errors from the Giants allowed Warrington to continue their domination.
Four minutes in, a knock on by Huddersfield winger Jermaine McGillvary on his own 20 metre line facilitated another Warrington set of six, which saw the ball eventually worked wide to Chris Bridge, who again flicked the ball outside to Monaghan for his second try, with Hodgson converting this time.
A Mike Cooper try under the posts was subsequently disallowed for a forward pass, but the ease in which he was able to find the gap was illustrative of Huddersfield's waning confidence, which led to two more Warrington tries.
On 52 minutes, Lee Briers gathered his own grubber kick to score under the posts, taking advantage of a gaping hole in the visitors' defence, while six minutes later, Carvell received an offload and tumbled over the line for a scrappy try, both of which were converted by Hodgson.
After this, Warrington sought to close the game out and almost added to the scoreline on a number of occasions in the last 20 minutes, but it was the visitors who were to have the last laugh, scoring two tries in the last five minutes through McGillvary and Scott Grix, both converted by Brough, to give a final score of 44-24.
For Giants coach Paul Anderson, there were plenty of negatives in the performance in terms of his side's ball retention and indiscipline, but their assertive finishing with what little possession they had is certainly a plus point to reflect upon in their quest for Super League honours this year.
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