It couldn’t have been a crueller way for the Giants to exit the Challenge Cup.

After battling for their lives to get in a position to claim a thrilling fourth-round triumph over unbeaten Super League leaders St Helens, they fell victim to the most controversial of refereeing calls.

With three minutes remaining and the sides locked at 16-16 all, Danny Brough struck a fourth drop-goal attempt that looked to many to have sailed between the posts.

But as the Giants prepared to get back into position for the subsequent restart, referee Phil Bentham ruled the shot had gone wide.

Referee Phil Bentham
Referee Phil Bentham
 

It was a decision that stunned Brough, who still remains 100% adamant he scored, as well as Saints’ former Giants coach Nathan Brown, who declared ‘lady luck had shined on his side’ and Saints half-back Luke Walsh, who admitted he thought the goal was good.

Unfortunately, it was Bentham’s call that mattered, and he was convinced the attempt was wide, hence his decision not to refer the incident to video referee Ian Smith.

And to then rub salt into the Giants’ gaping wound, the visitors immediately went upfield and Walsh made no mistake with his one-pointer, which came too late for the Giants to find a way back.

It was a conclusion Huddersfield simply didn’t deserve against a side who have swept all before them in the League this season.

As well as keeping their visitors at bay for such long periods, they also had to contend with a frightening penalty count of 13-5 against them and the 65th-minute sending off of Brett Ferres for a reckless challenge on Jonny Lomax.

Given such odds, it’s incredible they came so close at all!

And, given the way they lost the game, it was probably almost impossible for the Giants to find consolation in what was a much-improved display.

There was little to separate the sides during an outstanding opening 40 minutes, in which Saints were initially dominant before the Giants fought back to finish the half incredibly strongly.

The signs didn’t look promising early on for the hosts as mega-confident St Helens went straight on the front foot.

Brough’s kick-off on the full didn’t bode well, and by the eighth minute the visitors hit the front with a quality try.

A Luke Walsh 40-20 put his side on the front foot, and from the subsequent play, the ball was worked to Lance Hohaia to take the ball to the line and feed Adam Swift to score in the corner, too far out for Walsh to convert.

That was a quality score, but the second was even better.

Starting from deep inside their own half, Saints worked the ball to their right, with quick hands, deft grubber kicks and evasive skills, paving the way for Tommy Makinson to finish off in spectacular style.

It quite rightly prompted a chorus of ‘it’s just like watching Brazil’ from the large band of travelling Saints fan.

But again Walsh failed to add the extras, and at 8-0 the Giants were still firmly in the contest, and by half-time, they had deservedly taken a 10-8 lead.

They came close to reducing the deficit in the 17th minutes when video referee Smith ruled Craig Kopczak had failed to touch the ball down over the tryline after Brough’s magnificent 40-20 had originally created the opportunity.

But Smith ruled in the hosts’ favour 10 minutes later when, following an Aaron Murphy blindside burst, Shaun Lunt went the same way to crash over from close range and through the heaviest of traffic.

Shaun Lunt's first try
Shaun Lunt's first try
 

Brough was unable to convert, but was on target three minutes before the break to give Huddersfield a two-point advantage.

Murphy was held up on the line on play five and Luke Robinson kicked perfectly to the corner for Joe Wardle to outjump his marker and touch down.

At that stage, the half-time hooter couldn’t have come at the worse time for Huddersfield!

But they did extend their lead to 16-8 in the 57th minute when the alert Lunt followed up a great Scott Grix break.

However, the tide began to turn with 15 minutes remaining when Ferres received his marching orders for a throw on Lomax, which ended with the full-back falling awkwardly on his neck.

Within moments, had closed the gap to two points with Makinson’s second try, converted by Walsh. The balance of power had swing dramatically.

With the pressure continuing and the penalties stacking up, Walsh levelled the scores with a penalty five minutes from time to set up the thrilling finale.

A great Brough restart forced a Saints drop-out and four times Brough failed with drop-goal attempts, although all the talk obviously focused on his final effort and whether it had hit the target or not.

Huddersfield's Danny Brough remonstrates with referee after his last minute drop goal was disallowed
Huddersfield's Danny Brough remonstrates with referee after his last minute drop goal was disallowed
 

But it wasn’t given and with two minutes remaining Walsh struck the killer blow with a successful effort to break the home side’s hearts.

It was a finish the Giants’ efforts just didn’t deserve.

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