HUDDERSFIELD’S Challenge Cup dream for 2011 is over.
Despite producing a performance that was light years ahead of the ‘effort’ they produced at Bradford Bulls in Super League the week before, that came as little consolation after missing out on a potential Cup final trip to Wembley.
Nathan Brown’s men had ample opportunity to secure victory in this quarter-final clash as they displayed a fighting spirit that was nowhere to be seen in the Odsal rain.
But every time the Giants looked on the verge of clawing their way back into the tie and putting pressure on their ultra-enthusiastic hosts, they either came up with the wrong play, spilt possession, gave away a needless penalty or missed a crucial tackle
As a result, it played right into Castleford’s hands and the Tigers simply devoured it with a relish to set up a last-four clash against Leeds Rhinos and leave the visitors to reflect on what might have been.
It’s easy to say given the nature of this defeat that Huddersfield missed the influential midfield presence of injured captain and stand-off Kevin Brown, who may well have ensured his side adopted a more cautious approach to proceedings.
But there’s no doubt that’s something the Giants were lacking.
Having said that, stand-in skipper Luke Robinson showed why he deserved the armband by providing the main attacking spark for his side.
But it was only in the final stages of a tough first half that the England hooker began to take charge.
For much of the opening period, the visitors found themselves on the back foot as the Tigers looked more hungry and sharper than their opponents.
After the tightest of openings when there was little to separate the sides, Castleford eventually broke the deadlock after 17 minutes with a try that really should have been prevented.
When the ball was worked out to the right for winger Kirk Dixon to collect close to the Giants’ line, he had three defenders around him.
But somehow he managed to keep his momentum going and touched the ball down through a pile of bodies to score before adding his own conversion.
And six minutes later the home side were over again after scoring another that should have been prevented.
This time it was Jordan Thompson who made Huddersfield pay for some suspect defending as he crashed over by the posts through some heavy traffic. Dixon again goaled and it was 12-0.
Such was the way Castleford were dominating proceedings at this point that they should have extended their lead, but the Giants had a lucky break when a tryscoring pass to Richard Owen was ruled out for being forward with eight minutes of the half remaining.
That let-off seemed to be just what Huddersfield needed to get them back in the contest, and just when it looked as if they were going to be ‘nilled’ for the third successive half – after the 36-0 Super league thrashing the week before – they got right back into the contest.
After a great Cudjoe tackle on Nick Youngquest had forced the Cas man into touch close to his own line, the visitors forced a drop-out from which Robinson’s darting run created the opening for the supporting Scott Grix to charge over from close range.
Danny Brough’s conversion made it 12-6 and the Giants were right back in it at the break, and within three minutes of the restart the deficit was down to two.
A Chase grubber 10m from the Giants line was collected by Jermaine McGillvary, who gathered cleanly, immediately spotted a gap in the defensive line, shot through, raced clear and outpace to cover to finish off in the corner, although Brough was unable to add the extras.
But the renewed feeling of optimism was shortlived as Danny Orr collected close to the line and shot through with relative ease for Dixon to land conversion No3.
Only desperate cover defence denied Joe Arundel from extending the lead following a great run from deep, but that magnificent effort gained its reward in the 58th minute when Brough’s kick to the corner was plucked out of the air by Cudjoe to put the ball down.
Once again, however, Brough was off target with the conversion and the Castleford lead was four.
That was back up to eight five minutes later after a cruel call against the Giants.
Brough’s superb kick appeared to be a 40-20, but the touchjudge thought otherwise and the Tigers took full advantage and from subsequent scrum they took the ball upfield and worked the blind side for former Giants hooker Ryan Hudson to charge over from 10m out, too wide for Dixon to convert.
However, such was the way this game was flowing that it was no big surprise when the Giants clawed their way back once again.
After being handed a couple of cheap penalties, the Giants worked the play to the line for Robinson to feed Michael Lawrence from close range to stretch out and score.
Again Brough failed to convert from out wide and the gap was four.
Yet that gap was to prove far too big.