CAN Huddersfield Giants seriously hope to maintain a Super League play-off spot with performances as bad as this?
Excuses may have been allowed for the recent defeats to top sides Bradford, Wigan, Hull and St Helens when coach Jon Sharp was forced to field teams ravaged by injury.
But there is simply no excuse for a performance as inept as the one produced against bottom club Castleford.
The Tigers went into the game with a solitary win from their 18 Super League starts and were reported to be down on confidence and down on enthusiasm.
Yet against a Huddersfield side with 10 wins under their belt, Castleford played with a level of enthusiasm and confidence which put their visitors to shame.
Those qualities were not apparent in the opening half-hour as the Giants threatened to add significantly to the Tigers' woes - and that may have been the root cause of the problem.
The comparative ease at which the visitors were able to build up a 14-2 lead may have lulled them into a false sense of security.
Was it possible that instead of ramming home their advantage, the Giants dropped their guard and simply began going through the motions?
But whatever the reason, the collapse was awful in the extreme.
The Giants' second-half display was flat, lifeless and totally uninspiring as they allowed their hosts to gain the upper hand.
And by the end of the contest, the Tigers were celebrating a win that was wholly deserved.
In the first half, the only major obstacle that looked as if it was going to stand in the way of the Giants and another win was the refereeing of Steve Ganson.
He's made a habit this season of making life hard for Huddersfield, and he was at it again.
Within 15 minutes he had despatched Chris Nero to the sin-bin for holding down and a minute later had placed Ben Roarty on report for an alleged head butt. In the second half he was to do the same with Paul Reilly for an alleged kick on Damian Gibson as he followed up his own chip.
Mr Ganson gave several other debatable penalties early on, which caused frustration across the board.
But with the Giants building up a12-point lead by the 33rd minute, it looked as if they had weathered the Castleford storm and that of Mr Ganson.
Within five minutes the visitors opened their account when Brandon Costin broke through a wafer-thin defence and fed James Evans to score his sixth try of the campaign.
Costin failed with the conversion and Wayne Godwin landed a penalty nine minutes later to make it 4-2.
But it was then that the Giants appeared to be getting a firm grip on proceedings.
In the 21st minute Costin landed a penalty and seven minutes later the lead was extended to 10 points.
Stuart Donlan collected on the wing in what looked a very innocuous position.
But the winger quickly moved infield, skipped out of several flimsy challenges and fed Costin who found the supporting Sean Penkywicz to score a converted try under the posts.
It was soon 14-2 with Costin's second penalty, and the Giants were cruising.
Even a late first-half try from Castleford centre Paul Mellor failed to set off the alarm bells as another Costin penalty on the stroke of half-time.
But the level of concern started to rise within two minutes of the restart when the Giants conceded a very poor try.
A Brad Davis kick to the corner on the fifth tackle should have been safely diffused.
However, as the half-asleep Giants defence ball-watched Luke Robinson pounced over to score a try. Jon Hepworth added the conversion.
And by the 48th minute the Tigers took the lead for the first time as former Huddersfield hooker Ryan Hudson crashed over from close range.
Robinson added the extras to make it 18-16 and then on the hour make it 20 with a penalty.
At that stage it was nothing more than Castleford deserved.
Huddersfield did threaten a late rally when, following a Roarty break, Paul March worked the blindside for Hefin O'Hare to score in the corner and level at 20-20.
But the decisive moment came in the 70th minute.
The Giants lost possession in their own half, and within seconds the ball was worked to the left for Mellor to feed Darren Rogers to squeeze in at the corner.
Castleford had grabbed a winner that gave Huddersfield exactly what they deserved - absolutely nothing!
* Huddersfield's Junior Academy side maintained their title challenge with a 36-16 victory over Hull KR. Details tomorrow.