Huddersfield Head Coach Ian Watson branded his side’s 34-2 win over Salford as “a great response” following defeat to Wigan last week in a game where he felt his side was the better team.
Today though there was pressure to get a result and make it three wins from four and his Giants side stepped up in the absence of key signing Theo Fages.
Praising his team, particularly his spine, Watson said: “I think our young spine stepped up against players of Marc Sneyd’s calibre and Brodie Croft, Brierley and Ackers. I thought it was a great performance from us on the back of that Wigan game.”
He also identified one player as particularly outstanding in the shape of Tui Lolohea who he believes is the in-form player in his position at this moment: “I think Tui has been outstanding for the last few weeks. I reckon he is the best fullback in the competition at this moment in time.
But Lolohea was without fellow new recruit Fages who Watson confirmed is to have a scan tomorrow on a calf injury tomorrow.
On this Watson said: “He was injured, he wasn’t going to play he pulled up in midweek. He was never going to play this week but with Pryce having a little bit of pressure on him from last week I didn’t want him to come under that pressure again. So, he knew and yesterday we spoke Theo up in the press so Prycey could go about his own business instead of people going ‘oh Pryce is playing again, what’s he going to do.'”
So, Fages was used as a bit of a smokescreen to allow Will Pryce to shine and shine he did with a superb try to open the scoring and Watson commended him on his performance: “We have built him up but sometimes you’ve got to take that pressure off him and allow him to do what he needs to do which was focus on playing.
“He was outstanding, he had a little bit of a difficult day at Wigan last week. The way he responded today shows his character, what you want from a young lad. You don’t want him to go into his shell after a few mistakes, you want him to come out and express himself and I think the first try was a big try for us and it was outstanding the way he used his footwork.”
He also spoke about whether he should have been included in Shane Wane’s England squad this week: “Will’s going to have a good career. When you have a kid like Will come through everyone wants to put pressure on him saying ‘he’s going to the NRL, he’s going to play for England and Great Britain’ and he might get there and we want to assist him to get there. But what we don’t want to do is put him in the England squad now, he needs to earn it.
“He needs to be left alone to play to be honest. When you perform the pressure comes on, but the big thing for Will and the big thing for me is we can’t caught up in that. Although you see the try and his footwork today and you think ‘wow, what a kid’ at the same time you’ve got to understand he’s still a young kid.”
Interestingly, Pryce featured in the halves today despite wearing number one and seemingly being set up to play that role. On the decision to play him at six, Watson said: “Pryce will at some stage play at fullback, he’s a young lad who missed a lot of pre-season, the bits that he did do in pre-season were at fullback and he did really well there but it’s a lot to take on as a young lad, as six it’s a bit easier because he can float off the back of Oliver Russell, at fullback there’s a lot of pressure.
“We’ll build him into there, at some point he’ll play fullback but for now he’s comfy where he is.”
Of course, Watson used to coach Salford which could have added extra pressure on today’s game however Watson admitted his focus lies solely on Huddersfield now.
When asked if it meant more beating the Red Devils, he said: “Not any more, last year I was quite beat up losing the games to be fair. I’m happy we’ve won but it’s more about the way we played and what we’re trying to build here at Huddersfield.
“Last year it probably wounded me a bit losing those games, but mentally I’m in a different place. Today it was more about our team and what we do. That’s probably a learning curb for me as a coach.”