Teenager Jake Connor showed the Huddersfield Giants can win without Danny Brough.

The youngster played a starring role in a thrilling 17-16 victory over leaders St Helens which secured a top-four finish for his side in the most dramatic of fashion.

The 19-year-old England Youth international grabbed his side’s opening try and was involved throughout to deny shell-shocked Saints the League Leaders’ Shield on the night.

But it was only a Leroy Cudjoe drop goal with nine minutes remaining that could separate the sides in a game full of talking points.

Top of that list was the sending-off of visiting prop Alex Walmlsey for a late shot on Luke Robinson after 28 minutes, which helped swing the game the Giants’ way after former Giants coach Nathan Brown’s Saints had just opened up a 10-0 lead.

After the tightest of opening quarters with absolutely nothing to separate the two sides, the game shot into life when Saints took the lead after 22 minutes, and then extended their advantage three minutes later.

Not surprisingly, it took some sublime skill to create the opening score, with quick hands paving the way for Mark Percival to feed Tommy Makinson to dive over in the corner.

 

Percival was unable to add the extras, but made no mistake moments later, banging over the extras after the lively James Roby finished off another great sweeping move.

At 10-0, Saints looked to be taking complete command.

But the balance of power shifted dramatically in the 28th minute when Walmsley was red-carded for a late hit on Luke Robinson, which forced the playmaker to leave the field.

That dismissal appeared to shake the visitors to the core.

In an instant, the Giants were on the front foot, and only amazing defence from Paul Wellens prevented Ukuma Ta’ai from scoring from close range within a minute of the sending off.

The increasing pressure did finally take it’s toll on the Saints line three minutes before the break when Jake Connor dribbled ahead close to his opponents’ line and followed up to touch down under heavy pressure and added the conversion to make it 10-6 at the break.

Huddersfield Giants v St Helen's at the John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield.
Jake Connor scores
Huddersfield Giants v St Helen's at the John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield. Jake Connor scores
 

And within two minutes of the restart, the hosts hit the front for the first time.

A great offload from David Faiumu sent Ta’ai rampaging away, and after being held 15m out Shaun Lunt collected from dummy half, ran to the line and stretched out to score.

Connor converted and it was 12-10.Saints’ woes grew when former Giants winger Matty Dawson was stretched off after being accidentally struck by Jermaine McGillvary after collecting a ball in the corner.

Brave defending from Roby prevented Ta’ai from crossing in the 50th minute and extending the lead.

But there was nothing to deny Leroy Cudjoe seven minutes later when great Giants defence forced an error and the England centre picked up the pieces and raced 30m to score an unconverted try in the corner.

Such was the gripping nature of the contest that it was no real shock when Lance Hohaia finished off a move from deep and Percival landed the touchline conversion to level the scores with 20 minutes remaining.

A 71st-minute Cudjoe drop goal nudged his side back ahead, while a Hohaia effort three minutes later fell woefully wide of the mark.

The Giants immediately took play downfield and a Michael Lawrence grubber caused panic in the visitors’ defence and so nearly gave McGillvary a score, but instead resulted in a valuable St Helens drop-out.

From the resultant set, Jodie Broughton came within a whisker of collecting Joe Wardle’s tryscoring pass.