10 Jul 2019

THE CHALKBOARD: GIANTS VS SALFORD

A review of the tactics from last week's win over Salford

By Sean Evans

The Giants win against Salford Red Devils last Thursday felt like a watershed moment for this youthful Huddersfield side, with a number of players switching positions and debuts for Polar Bear Junior, Oliver Wilson and Tom Holmes in the halves. A confident performance, with excellent attacking structure and defensive solidity, ensured the win.

The opening exchanges between the Giants and Salford is probably something which the fans will say should be forgotten about but the opening try of the game was not without it’s defensive positives. The Giants dominated the opening set and forced Salford to about 35m out from their line on their opening tackle. The next play looked like this;

A good chase allowed the defence to work in to out and put pressure on with dominant tackles using their momentum, rather than coming across their own bodies to make weak side tackles.

It was two individual errors that cost the Giants their first points of the game, a clean drop after a strong defensive set won’t have pleased his coach and a poor second defensive phase after good initial contact on the line. Tackling close to line does require a lot of upper body strength to wrestle the man onto their back, thus stopping the ball hitting the deck, similar to the previous tackle where Ta’ai got dominant contact and wrestled Josh Jones onto his back over the try line and holding him up.

The shape of the defence could definitely be applauded to that point, the key men being in the right positions to make good and smart decisions off the ball. This defensive stability continued despite the errors and continued throughout the game to good effect. 

Lee Gaskell had himself positioned perfectly to both cover the threat out the back and make strong contact with the man short and had his eyes fixed on Hastings as to know where and when to move. Senior coving well to fill in any gaps left by Mellor’s contact with the back-rower.

The second Salford try did show some vulnerabilities if you’re caught out of position but plaudits also need to be handed to Tui Lolohea who’s execution took McGillvary out of the game and made the try a certainty.

A nice individual drive from English with plenty punch and power meant that the score was a lot healthier before the attack had even started to get going in full speed. An individual error, similar to that Innes produced in the opening stages, was made by Sio for Salford giving Huddersfield a chance to capitalise and take the lead, and it’s here we see the Giants attack in full flow for the first time. Seeing a numerical advantage a simple out the back play gave the Senior twins a nice 2-on-1 and Louis sets up Innes who can get around his opposition and into the corner.    

As soon as Louis was on the outside shoulder of Krisnan Inu, it was advantage attacking side and a try was an almost certainty, good read from Tom Holmes to choose the outside option rather than the lead runners.

McIntosh with a great leap took a wonderful catch above the defence from a Tom Holmes kick to push the away side further ahead and it seemed like the Giants attack had come out firing but a comedy of errors at the back kept the game alive and that firing attack of Huddersfield’s was needed, and delivered to lead onto a much needed two points for Huddersfield.

Similar Attacking Shape, Better Execution

The Comparison for this week is in attacking structure but more strictly how Huddersfield won this game by shutting down Salford’s structure. At the start of the night, talk of how well Salford’s structures, led by Jackson Hastings, have looked this season was miles ahead of the talk Lee Gaskell, Tom Holmes and the Giants may produce, but it was the Giants who were able to stop the red hot Red Devils.   

The shape Huddersfield throw as the ball is coming away from the ruck is very similar to Salford’s and that’s why this comparison is so apt. The image shows the attacking formation leading to Ukuma Ta’ai’s first try of the season. The pace and execution always kept Huddersfield ahead, with only 5 defenders direct to 6. Kruise Leeming taking the first man out the game from dummy half, and Salford can’t recover in time. By the time the centre reacts in Ta’ai is over the line and it’s try time.

Salford however, start a lot more congested, and perhaps this played to the favour of Robert Lui before he departed for Leeds Rhinos, but it allows the half backs to be involved in the front line as well as the back and this creates the congestion in defence that leads to Salford’s second of the game and one piece of skill from Tui Lolohea leaves the defenders for dead.

However the difference in the two sides did come during a large spell of dominance for the Red Devils in which the Huddersfield defenders were ready for Hastings to have space and Lolohea to try fancy balls, McGillvary was always high out of the line to shut down plays, including a vital interception and half-backs Holmes and Gaskell consistently made good decisions defending on their own lines meaning Salford had to out power the side, and that ultimately, they were unable to do.

Holmes: Star on both sides of the ball

It isn’t a dis-service to the rest of the side to say that Tom Holmes won this game for the Giants, and was superb in both attack and defence. His off-the-cuff style helped improve the Giants attack, which has been predictable at times this season and struggled to break down plays. 

Two stand out points being his 1-on-1 tackle against Krisnan Inu to keep the score to 4-0 15 minutes in, and his remarkably timed pass to Ta’ai to set up the forward’s first try of the season.

The first of these moment could be argued that his timing was off, Holmes was caught slightly slow by the centre - who in this case was running the line normally ran by the back-row to cover his full-back, and his power is very suited to hitting a slow runner, but Holmes recovered to tackle. After making good contact, he wrestled to grip under the ball and turn the big outside back onto his back and prevent the score.

The second was one of those perfect set up plays, Gaskell timed his run and pass well which left Lolohea (circled) needing to make a choice, he made incorrectly tucking in and leaving his outside shoulder open, Tom Holes recognised it immediately and found the pass that sent Ta’ai through and over the line.

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