HUDDERSFIELD Giants moved two points clear at the top of Stobart Super League by beating Castleford 42-4 at the Galpharm Stadium tonight to put a dampener on Ian Millward's return for the Tigers.
Millward, who returned to work this week from a month's compassionate leave, rang the changes in a bid to halt his side's five-match losing run but they were run ragged by a rampant Giants outfit, for whom winger Luke George bagged his third hat-trick of the season.
Huddersfield ran in eight tries, three of them while down to 12 men through the sin-binning of Jason Chan, with George leading the way with some exceptional finishing to take his try tally for the season to nine in just six matches.
The heroic George made it a nightmare debut for 20-year-old winger James Clare, one of five new faces brought in by Millward, who retained only six players in the starting line-up from the side that lost 42-16 to London.
Yet the early warning signs were in evidence for the visitors, with second rower Michael Lawrence held up over the Castleford line after full-back Richard Owen had failed to deal with the first of a series of clever kicks from Danny Brough.
George set the scoreboard ticking over on 11 minutes when he was released by Lawrence and regathered his own kick to score his first try.
It was all too easy for the Giants as Scott Grix burst clear to send former Castleford full-back Greg Eden over before centre Joe Wardle crashed through some poor defence for Huddersfield's third try on 22 minutes.
That was the signal for Millward to send on all four of his substitutes and the changes initially had the desired effect as the Tigers, with Rangi Chase pulling the strings, put the home defence under pressure.
A string of penalties enabled Castleford to build up some momentum and it paid off with Owen sending winger Nick Youngquest over at the corner to make it 14-4.
The visitors must have thought the comeback was on when Chan was sin-binned on 32 minutes for a dangerous tackle on Youngquest but the home side played even better with 12 men and extended their lead to 22 points by the break.
Replacement prop Larne Patrick maintained his huge promise, displaying a remarkable combination of pace and footwork to romp 40 metres for a solo try, and George grabbed his second after racing onto a precision kick from Kevin Brown.
The Giants were still a man short when the unfortunate Clare lost the ball in Brown's tackle attempting to clear his own line and that enabled George to complete his hat-trick within a minute of the re-start.
George then provided the final pass for Brown to touch down and, although the winger was taken off as a precaution after taking a knock, the one-way traffic continued with Lawrence forcing his way over for an eighth try.
After failing with his first two conversion attempts, Brough eventually found his accuracy to finish with five from eight attempts.