It's fourth versus second in the Galpharm Stadium on Friday night and I think this is going to be a real humdinger.
Huddersfield have been flying of late, winning four of their five games in May and are through to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup following their late exploits against Castleford last week. So in a way it's quite ironic that they'll be facing a team that was beaten at the quarter-final stage.
The Giants were quite fortunate against Castleford. It was a game they were in control of early on and were it not for some poor ball control they could have ran in five tries at least.
They cannot afford to squander those opportunities against Hull Kingston Rovers, who will be smarting this week. It's bad enough to lose a game, but to lose it by a golden point; that is a killer. The determination that coach Justin Morgan will have instilled into his players ahead of this weekend will be enormous. He will be saying: "Look, the Challenge is out of the way; it's over and done with. We are up there with the top guys in Super League - now let's make sure we stay there.
That will have been Morgan's mantra all through this week. A lot of people think Hull KR are there by luck or fluke; they seem to think they are just going to fall in a heap, and in many ways to suffer a disappointing defeat like last weekend can shock a team into a position whereby you're not focused.
Morgan is a smart enough coach to concentrate his side fully on Super League and start applying pressure. He wasn't talking out of his backside with his suggestion that getting to the Grand Final was his ultimate aim, and that was before a ball was kicked this season.
Quotes of the week
Huddersfield v Hull KR
8pm, Fri, Sky Sports 3 & HD3
Morgan is a smart enough coach to concentrate his side fully on Super League and start applying pressure. He wasn't talking out of his backside with his suggestion that getting to the Grand Final was his ultimate aim, and that was before a ball was kicked this season. He's passed his mentality down to the players and they've played some tremendous stuff this season.
Huddersfield's coach Nathan Brown admitted after the Castleford games that there were a lot of things that didn't go right for them and he knows they can't squander those opportunities against Hull KR, because they will be a lot stronger in defence. They'll try to close them down and challenge Kevin Brown and Luke Robinson, who have been combining well. They'll also realise the danger of captain David Hodgson, who will get himself involved in the three-quarter line and the ability to make the break deep from within his own half.
Huddersfield have got the quality and are also boosted by the fact that Eorl Crabtree and Scott Moore have been selected for the England squad. To my knowledge Moore must be the first player to be on loan away from his parent club to be selected for an international. That will give him an enormous boost. Crabtree has been utilised off the bench but he is such a big unit and is hard to put down. He sometimes can attract three of four tacklers into a shallow area; if he can get up quickly and play the ball that leaves a big gap for the attacking side.
They may have been below par against Castleford but you have to credit the Giants for their never-say-die attitude and the way they grinded out the win. Brown has them working extremely well and in Kevin Brown and Luke Robinson he has developed a good half-back understanding. It was through the ability of this duo that they created those chances late in the game that snatched a win against Castleford.
Brown will get into their minds and say they can't sit back. If they look through the tape of Hull KR's defeat to Warrington they will have seen how many balls they bombed. I've never seen a side win in a sudden death game after bombing so many balls. You've got to give some credit for the guts and determination to fight back and keep going to the end because normally when a team commits so many handling errors it can quickly spread through the side. It proved that psychologically they are very strong.
Away win - I'm going to go for Hull KR but only just. I can't see many points in this at all. They will be fully focused on Super League after last weekend and will want maintain their position at the top. Their last league defeat was at home to the Giants back in April, so they'll also want to atone for that.
Stevo's star man
Shaun Briscoe (Hull KR) - Both Briscoe and Peter Fox have also been picked in the England squad so along with Crabtree and Moore there'll be four international hopefuls on show. However, after being overlooked for so long, Briscoe will be bursting to show his worth.
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John Mcgann says...
Re: Gary Taylor. As good as saints are through the regular season, the last time they played well in a major final was versus wigan at cardiff in 2004, since then final showings have been pretty average, as leeds have shown over the last two years, feel saints are a shoe in for the final and it may be their year, but there are others who can make a push, including HKR and the wire...
Posted 14:45 11th June 2009
Carl Johnson says...
What makes you so certain Gary that Saints will win this year's Grand Final? The reality is that Leeds have the measure of Saints on the big day. Dont be suprised by the way for a shock this season! Saints and Leeds will be there or there abouts of course but the competition is starting to even itself out now just as it has in the NRL.
Posted 13:19 5th June 2009
Allan Starkey says...
gary,it may have slipped your notice but in 3 yrs in super league hull kr have steadily improved each season, and now with a good blend of youth and experience are making a bid for the title this year. im not saying this will be our year but you should not sit back on your laurels. saints are a great team but your players are slowly leaving, the exit of sean long to hull fc next season a case in point. its all good for our great sport, enjoy it while you can my friend at some point you will be looking up at others trying to get back to the top, just as we have been doing. now we are on the move as are others so watch out.
Posted 11:36 5th June 2009
Mark Holmes says...
A good analysis from Stevo. I'm a Giants' fan and rate Hull KR very strongly indeed. They are structually strong, and play at an intensity which other teams have struggled to match. In addition, in Dobson, they have one of the smartest scrum-halves in the competition, and the old-stagers like Gene and Fozzard really rally to the Hull cause. The Giants, on the other hand, have been lifted by recent events and their confidence is sky high. Expect a titanic tussle in the forwards in a game that I feel we (the Giants) will just edge. Can't wait!
Posted 10:55 5th June 2009
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