FOR a second successive game, Huddersfield Giants Under 20s were unable to live up to their early promise as they fell to a 38-12 home Valvoline Cup defeat against Wigan Warriors.
A week ago coach Jamahl Lolesi’s youngsters were in the hunt for an hour against Leeds Rhinos and then fell away badly in the final quarter.
And it was the same again seven weeks later as the far more experienced Cherry and Whites turned the screw late in the contest to secure the League points.
Not that it should have come as any great surprise, however.
After all, while the Giants fielded just five full-time players in their 17, the vast majority of the Warriors’ squad were fully-fledged professionals.
On top of that, with a further five of the Huddersfield line-up still eligible to play for the club’s Under 18s Academy side, they were always going to be facing an uphill struggle.
That certainly looked as if it was going to be the case in the opening exchanges as they fell 12-0 behind in as many minutes after conceding tries to Matthew Crow and Logan Tomkins – the younger brother of superstar Sam – and two Jack Murphy conversions.
But as the half progressed, the plucky Giants became far more of a threat.
After 27 minutes, they cut the deficit when a Joel Farrell grubber forced a Wigan goalline drop-out and, from the subsequent set, Ben Whitehead charged over on the last tackle and then added the conversion.
And the stand-off landed his second goal just seven minutes later after feeding in-form centre Joe Fox to race through and help level the scores.
Unfortunately, the Warriors wasted little time finding a response, courtesy of a John O’Donnell try on the visitors’ next attack to make it 16-12 at the break – and the Giants' resistance had finally been broken.
Despite a positive second-half start from the hosts, it wasn’t long before Wigan were taking full control, with Jack Hughes – a Super League regular for the Warriors in recent weeks – Crow, Ryan King and Rhodri Lyodd all crossing for tries to take the score well out of the Giants’ reach.
It was certainly a disappointing end to a contest that had initially been so full of promise.
And that was in total contrast to earlier in the day in the first Giants’ junior game at Laund Hill, which Huddersfield’s Academy side narrowly lost 24-22 to Bradford Bulls.
With a number of the Under 18s squad on Under 20s duty, Huddersfield were always running the risk of losing their first game of the season.
But they could still count themselves unlucky not to have triumphed, with a poor start to the contest proving their downfall.
The Giants trailed 10-0 at the break as they struggled to get into their stride.
But in the second half, they began to gain the upper hand, with tries from Jordan Higo, Jake Shoel, Tom Jowett and Nathan Mason, and three Jack Miller goals, before a last-gasp Bulls score made all the difference.