Ian Watson reflects on win over Hull FC and again describes Tui Lolohea as the “best fullback in the competition” and compares him with Sam Tomkins

Ian Watson has experience getting all the way to Wembley doing so and defying the odds with Salford in 2020.

Now at Huddersfield there’s a feeling that Watson could be brewing up another trip to London for the final after his side downed Hull FC in a physical match at the John Smith’s Stadium in the quarter-finals of the competition.

It came on the back of a very good performance that certainly left Watson pleased. He said after the game: “I thought we played really well. We lost to them a couple of weeks ago and in that game we didn’t feel like we played like us, we felt we contributed to why we lost and we wanted to rectify that today.

“I thought our forward pack did an outstanding job because we probably got run over the last time we played them but today I thought our pack was outstanding,”

The game was decided by big moments especially from Tui Lolohea who scored a superb and decisive try just after the hour mark. This came after a try saving tackle on Josh Griffin which Watson believed was the big moment that decided the game: “That’s the biggest one, that’s what we want off the guys. They’re a team and they’re working really hard for each other. When someone makes an error the other guys are willing to clean it up for them and that was epitomised by Tui tracking back.

“Josh Griffin scores them, I know him pretty well and he normally scores them so that was a big big moment.”

Lolohea was good but so were plenty of Giants players including skipper Luke Yates who created Lolohea’s try. However, Watson was more impressed with his defence than anything: “I thought he [Yates] was outstanding defensively. All his game was good but in particularly in defence. He took it quite personally when we lost last time and I thought him, Hilly and Oliver Wilson were outstanding at the start of the game, they gave us a platform.”

St Helens also won in the quarter-finals of the cup today as they look to retain their trophy. When asked if Watson would like to avoid the reigning Super League Champions in the semis, he said: “We’re in the semi-finals and you’ve got to play the best teams at some point. Semi-finals are a different breed themselves, it’ll be a high intensity game. We’ve got Saints here in a couple of weeks so we’ll see how we go against them then.”

Now a side seemingly capable of pushing the top teams in the competition, Watson noted that this is where he wants the club to be and identified the key men behind Huddersfield’s transformation in 2022: “This is where I want the club to get to, this is what we’re trying to build and to do that you have to have the right people. Chris Hill, Theo Fages they’ve brought the right mentality to the club to make us better.”

As Watson tries to establish Huddersfield as contenders, he’ll be keen on delivering the cup to the John Smith’s Stadium as it’s been nearly 70 years since Huddersfield last won the cup and Watson is certainly excited at the opportunity he now has with the Giants but is keen to remain focused on each game as it comes: “It would be awesome [to win the cup] but what we’ve got to do is get back on the horse in Super League and when the semi-final comes around focus on that.”

To win silverware, key players have to come up with the big moments and Tui Lolohea did that today and Watson again sung his praises identifying him as the best fullback in the competition at this moment in time: “He’s one of the, if not the, best fullback in the competition at this moment in time. He was a fullback at the New Zealand Warriors and it was Sam Tomkins who went over and kind of took his place. Tui was a young man with potential at that time. His attack was something that they’d not had in a while but they decided they wanted someone a little more experienced and brought in Sam which kind of stopped Tui playing.

“I think Tui has grown in stature coming over here. He’s played in major finals at six and you see now what he’s doing at one. He’s an outstanding talent.”

His comments prompted the question, ‘does he think Lolohea is better than the reigning Man of Steel Sam Tomkins?’ To which he said: “I’m saying he is, but Steve McNamara and Shaun Wane will probably tell you he’s not. I’ve had Tui for a few years and he’s a great player.”

One of a number of outstanding performers today alongside the likes of Chris Hill who has impressed plenty of people since switching Warrington for Huddersfield and Watson was asked if he felt Hill deserved an England call-up.

“That’s Shaun’s decision to make,” Watson said, “He said he’d be picking on form. If he’s picking on form at the moment you’re looking at Chris Hill. Joe Greenwood is doing phenomenally well as well. We’ve got some good British players here who could be putting their hands up for the World Cup.”

Speaking of England call-ups, England international Jermaine McGillvary missed today’s game and is touch and go for the game against Leeds on Thursday: “This game was definitely too early for him. It wasn’t worth playing him today because he could have gone out there and broken down straight away so we just went with Ashton Golding and I thought he was outstanding.”

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