Huddersfield Giants will play in Super League in 2017, but they will want to avoid being involved in this kind of drama ever again.
Thanks to a Danny Brough drop goal they did just enough to overtake rivals Hull KR in the Middle 8s and ensure playing in the top flight – while the Robins will be hoping to do a little better on their home track in next weekend’s ‘million pound game’ against Salford Red Devils.
However, there is no doubting that head coach Rick Stone’s side did it the hard way. And in many respects, the nature of the Giants’ performance was a microcosm of their season.
The 2016 has seen the Giants produce the good – some very good – the bad and the ugly, and they managed to include most of that in the 80 minutes at Hull KR.
In the first half they were in control and showed that they have the class to compete with the best in Super League.
However, yet again they lacked the staying power to march to victory having established a 22-4 half-time lead at the Lightstream Stadium. The second half was littered with lapses in concentration as they struggled to withstand the Robins’ considerable fightback.
It was a recovery that put the home side back in third place in the Middle 8s on the hour, as a draw would have seen them head the Giants in the table on points difference.
However, in the end it came down to a Brough drop goal – though it was scored with enough time left on the clock for at least half a dozen more sets of six.
It was jittery all the way to the final hooter. Terry Campese smashed a drop goal attempt against a post and then a late Robins try was taken to the video referee – though the home fans seemed resigned to not getting a stunning last minute let off as they waited for the ‘No Try’ ruling.
The Giants made only one change to their squad of 17 who had notched a 22-14 win over Leeds Rhinos in the previous round.
Former New Zealand international prop Sam Rapira, who sustained a head injury against the Rhinos, was not risked with Nathan Mason taking his place on the bench.
The Giants got the perfect start as a hopelessly misjudged Campese pass was intercepted by Ryan Brierley and the half back dashed 70 yards to score with Danny Brough adding the goal.
However, the home side were applying the majority of the pressure and after two drop outs, the Giants line was breached when Robins second rower Bobby Blair forced his way over the line, but Josh Mantellato pulled the kick wide.
The Giants were struggling to get a foothold in the contest, but on 25 minutes it was the lively Brierley who found a gap. He and ripped through the Robins’ cover and sent Leroy Cudjoe racing in for a try at the posts and Brough added the goal to put the Giants two scores in the clear.
That gap increased within minutes as Ryan Hinchcliffe freed Tom Symonds and his pass put Brierley over the line. Brough made it three successes from three attempts at goal.
The Robins were struggling and had full back Ben Cockayne sent to the sin-bin for holding down in the tackle.
A man up, the visitors finished the first period at a canter when a quick pass by Scott Grix was flipped on by Joe Wardle and Aaron Murphy was free to put the ball down over the line.
Brough failed with the kick, but at half-time the Giants were cruising at 22-4.
The Robins controlled the opening ten minutes of the second half, forcing the Giants to twice drop out. But the frustration of the home crowd was escalating until Ken Sio finally found a route around the outside to touch down, with Mantellato adding the goal.
And Mantellato was on target again minutes later after Mitch Allgood won the race to touch down a kick which evaded the Giants defence.
A high tackle on Symonds gave Brough a shot at goal from a penalty, but his effort hit a post.
That miss was compounded when, soon after, Jermaine McGillvary lost a high kick under pressure from Mantellato and Iain Thornley dabbed down the loose ball. Mantellato’s goal drew the scores level at 22-22.
The Giants had to react and Brough took on the role of savour with a drop goal as time was running out. It put the Giants back in the position of missing the agony of playing the million pound game next weekend.
Back came the Robins and Campese fired in a drop goal attempt, but it hit an upright – much to the relief of the Giants.
They had to survive even more drama as The Robins looked to have broken clear for a try in the corner but they were pulled back and a penalty was awarded to the Giants.
Seconds later the travelling fans were celebrating with a chant of “We are staying up” as the Giants retained their Super League status.
It was celebrated like a cup final win, but I am sure that neither players or fans want to be in high spirits for the same reason at the end of next season.