Opposition Profile: Huddersfield Giants
Super League returns this Sunday with Leeds Rhinos taking on Huddersfield Giants as part of a double header at Emerald Headingley, kick off 6:30pm.
After bad weather conditions meant this game was postponed in February, both teams return after four months of lockdown to play the game.
Now in his third season at the helm, head coach Simon Woolford enhanced his squad ahead of the new campaign and the results have looked promising.
Prior to lockdown, Huddersfield won four out of their five opening matches, beating Hull KR, Catalans in Perpignan, last year’s Grand Finalists Salford and, notably, the reigning Champions St Helens.
The marquee capture of Aidan Sezer has been a huge addition to Woolford’s squad. As one of the many star names to join Super League in 2020, the half back brings a wealth of experience from his time at Canberra Raiders, including an NRL Grand Final appearance in 2019. His talents were laid out for all to see from the start of the season as he posted a try and six goals against Catalans in round one.
The match could also see two players face their former club for the first time. Alex Mellor and Kruise Leeming both switched the claret and gold for Leeds’ blue and amber this season and are in contention to be included in Richard Agar’s team on Sunday. For the Giants, they too have former Rhinos players in their ranks; Ashton Golding and Owen Trout signed contracts for 2020 but both are yet to make an appearance.
Last Time Out
Huddersfield’s last Super League match came against the Champions, St Helens, at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Despite Adam O’Brien’s early try, the home side took control as Luke Thompson and Morgan Knowles gave Kristian Woolf’s side took a 10-6 lead. Although Saints had a chance to seal the win, they were left to rue over missed opportunities as Jake Wardle’s late converted try sent Huddersfield back over the Pennines with the win.
Position: Back Row
Career Apps: 110
Super League Tries: 10
Former clubs: Parramatta Eels, Catalans Dragons
Bio: A threatening back rower who made the switch to the Giants after nearly two years at Catalans Dragons. Joining up with former Eels team mate Suaia Matagi, Edwards will be part of a forward pack that combines youth with experience, a trend that runs throughout the Giants’ squad.
Position: Scrum Half
NRL Appearances: 155
NRL Goals: 179/218
2019 NRL Grand Finalist with Canberra Raiders
Bio: The playmaker is one of the best in Rugby League at executing structured plays. Starting his career at Gold Coast Titans, his best moments in the NRL came while he was at the ‘Green Machine’, playing alongside current Warrington half back Blake Austin and the Raiders’ Jack Wighton under Ricky Stuart.
When Huddersfield first faced Leeds in 1998, both home and away matches were high scoring affairs for the men in blue and amber. Two tries for both Francis Cummins and Marcus St Hilaire gave Graham Murray’s side a 54-4 result at Headingley before a 13 try thrashing at Alfred McAlpine Stadium helped the Rhinos continue a six match winning streak towards the end of the league season.
Over the next three seasons, Leeds recorded wins both home and away against the Giants, who finished bottom in all of the four campaigns before their relegation to the Northern Ford Premiership in 2002.
Huddersfield remained unbeaten home and away against the Rhinos throughout the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Super League seasons, winning five matches and drawing once. Their best performance during that time came at the John Smith’s Stadium in 2012 when captain Danny Brough posted 20 points to help his side to a 48-24 victory. The Giant’s also scored a combined 72 points in both league matches against Leeds a year later in 2013 when they lifted the League Leaders’ Shield (32-8 at home and 40-18 at Headingley).
The last time the two sides played each other in round two of Super League was in 2008; Leeds securing a 30-10 result. Brent Webb and Ryan Hall both scored braces to give Leeds a resounding lead before Jamie Jones-Buchanan added his name to the scoresheet.
Last Ten Meetings vs Leeds
Record against the Rhinos
Overall, Leeds have played Huddersfield in the league 188 times, winning 106 of them (56%). In the Super League era, when the Giants first joined in 1998, Huddersfield only won one regular season match in the first eleven years (excluding 2002 when they played in the Northern Ford Premiership).
The Rhinos’ longest unbeaten record at both home and away came between 2004 and 2009 as Leeds won 12 matches; their biggest win of that period coming in 2005 when Richie Mathers, Chris McKenna and Chev Walker all scored twice in a 54-10 win.
More recently though, Huddersfield have been the more dominant against Leeds both at home and away in the league over the last eight years. It is their best form against Leeds since they joined Super League with nine wins and three draws.
There has also been three draws in the last six years. A low scoring 12-12 affair at the start of the 2014 season was followed by a 24 all deadlock the year after; Kallum Watkins scoring in both matches. Two years ago, Ash Handley saved a point for the visiting Rhinos, scoring late on to secure a 22 all stalemate.
Head to Head
Last Game Against the Rhinos
Last year, Leeds claimed an important 44-0 victory over Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium. On his 100th appearance, Ash Handley scored two tries for the visitors, along with Tom Briscoe, Adam Cuthbertson, Brad Dwyer, Liam Sutcliffe and Konrad Hurrell, as Leeds kept their local rivals scoreless for the first time in Super League.