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Huddersfield Giants finish season with sorry 36-12 home defeat to Leeds Rhinos

Michael Lawrence try as Sam Rapira makes last appearance

Huddersfield Giants' Ryan Hinchcliffe charges towards Leeds Rhinos' Kallum Watkins. Picture by John Rushworth

Huddersfield Giants’ finale turned out to be a sorry reminder of the start of the season as they lost 36-12 at home to Leeds Rhinos.

Having been upwardly mobile in the second half of the season, head coach Rick Stone’s side have ended the campaign with a series of defeats where they have failed to compete.

For the Giants, it is now a case of turning the positives from the middle of the season into a serious push next term.

The Giants gave an opportunity to some of their fringe players, with Jared Simpson starting on the right wing and Alex Mellor being handed the centre berth inside him.

Michael Lawrence concluded an injury-hit season with a place in the starting line-up.

Danny Brough at half back started his 300th Super League match and Sam Rapira was on the pitch to accept the applause of the John Smith’s Stadium crowd as he made his final appearance before heading to Toulouse next season.

But it was a much-changed Leeds team who made the better start with Kallum Watkins scoring in the corner after two minutes and adding the goal.

Watkins’ initial score exposed the lack of experience on the Giants flank with skipper Leroy Cudjoe and England international winger Jermaine McGillvary both absent.

But after the visitors initial surge the Giants began to exert some influence going forward.

Ukuma Ta’ai pushed towards the line in the best effort of the opening 20 minutes but as the chance went begging the Leeds response was almost instant.

On 21 minutes the Rhinos, already booked in for a semi-final place in the Super League play-offs, cut the Giants defence to shreds on the left and veteran maestro Danny McGuire nipped in off the right to score, but Watkins’ kick was off target.

The lead was extended five minute later as Joel Moon provided the prompt for Jimmy Keinhorst to cross the line and Watkins added the goal.

Giants hopes we’re not helped as Ta’ai limped off the field, but they got on the scoreboard on 31 minutes as hometown product Michael Lawrence managed to get his hand on a grubber kick from Ryan Hinchcliffe for a try.

Brough added the extras to extend his scoring run against the Rhinos to 24 matches.

Giants’ Mellor was blood-binned on the stroke of half-time but the home side ended the half going forward, only for the ball to be fumbled just as a promising move was stretching the Leeds cover, and the visitors turned round 16-6 ahead.

Adam O’Brien attempted to shake up the Giants with a couple of breaks and one intelligent kick that Leeds snuffed out, but the home side were struggling to make an impact.

On 55 minutes, Leeds extended their lead with McGuire cutting through a gap to score, former Giants prop Anthony Mullally then powered over from close range and Watkins made it four from five in successful kicks.

The England centre was on the mark again with a penalty to give the Rhinos a 20-point lead, but the Giants made six points back as Ryan Hinchcliffe went over and Danny Brough took his tally to two from two.

Sadly for the home side, the visitors struck again with Rob Burrow going through to score, Watkins adding the goal to make it 36-12 to the Headingley side.

It was a sad end to the season for the Giants.

Meanwhile, Castleford Tigers boast two nominees in the three-man shortlist for this year’s Steve Prescott Man of Steel Award.

Chosen by a poll of every Betfred Super League player and presented to the individual deemed to have had the biggest impact on the season, Castleford’s Luke Gale and Zak Hardaker are joined by Hull FC stand-off Albert Kelly in the race to lift the most prestigious individual prize in the game.

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