St Helens 42 - 22 Huddersfield Giants: Chris Roberts' play-off semi-final match report

THE GIANTS dream of gracing Old Trafford is over!

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THE GIANTS dream of gracing Old Trafford is over!

Huddersfield’s hopes of reaching of the Super League Grand Final ended at St Helens after a pulsating semi-final.

Although Saints eventually took the honours 42-22, coach Nathan Brown’s brave battlers left the Knowsley Road field with their heads held high.

For much of the game they were well in the hunt, and in fact took a narrow 20-18 lead after 47 minutes.

But in the end this proved one game too far, with their heroics at Warrington last weekend probably taking its toll.

That performance in particular show that Giants now truly deserve to be accepted at Super League’s top table.

Even though the season ended in defeat at St Helens the future continues to look brighter for the men in Claret and gold.

Giants coach Brown understandably kept faith with the 17 players that produced the match-winning heroics at Warrington last Saturday, although he started with Shaun Lunt in the second row and put Danny Kirmond on the bench.

But it was 10 minutes after the scheduled start before that line-up could be put the test as crowd congestion for what was the last game to be staged at Knowsley Road forced a delayed kick-off – Saints signing off after 120 years at their traditional home.

When the action did get under way it was the home side who made the immediate impact.

After two promising opening Huddersfield pushes, a Francis Meli break from deep set Saints on their way and having forced Giants to drop out the position was created for Keiron Cunningham to send a grubber kick through for Bryn Hargreaves to get the vital touch.

Jamie Foster converted as Saints made their intentions clear.

Seven minutes later Hargreaves was on hand to grab a second try coming on to a ball near the line at pace and crashing through to dive over and Foster again added the extras.

But midway through the half the tide began to turn.

Only superb Saints defence denied the GIants as they began to pile on the pressure, but there was nothing the home side could do when BrettHodgson collected from acting half back close to the line and sent out a bullet pass for Lunt cross with ease. Giants skipper Hodgson landed the touchline goal and the visitors were back in the contest.

It got even better for the Giants five minutes later when Hodgson sent out another long pass to Michael Lawrence to finish out wide.

Again the Aussie inspiration landed a superb touchline goal and the healthy number of Giants fans were beginning to start dreaming of the possibility of a trip to Old Trafford.

However, the wind was taken out their sails five minutes from the break when excellent Saints approach play created an opening for Paul Wellens to join the line and charge through and stretch out for a try, which was converted again by Foster.

But on the strike of half-time the Giants ensured their challenge remained alive when Danny Brough’s kick to corner was collected by Lawrence and he kicked ahead and followed up with the touchdown.

Brett Hodgson failed with a third kick from the touchline but at 18-16 the game was perfectly balanced.

Giants carried on from where they left off at the start of the second half and took the lead seven minutes into the second period when Hodgson kicked ahead on the last tackle for Lee Gilmour to touch down in the corner against his former club.

Hodgson made no mistake with the goal and the excitement levels were rising.

But within seven minutes their Grand Final dreams started to be shattered.

A James Roby kick through gave Wellens the chance to get the vital touch for his second try and Foster nudged over the goal to regain the lead for his side which they were never to lose.

In the 62nd minute the home side were over the try-line again when Tony Puletua crashed over from close range and it was obvious the Giants challenge was fading.

Further scores from Francis Meli and Cunningham, who was almost inevitably the final try scorer at Knowsley Road, rubbed salt into the Giants’ wounds.

 

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