Huddersfield Giants must show the form that secured a hat trick of 2013 triumphs over Super League champions Leeds when they face Hull FC tonight, or risk being labelled the all-time play-off flops.
Never before in Super League history have the newly-crowned minor champions failed to reach the Qualifying Semi-Final stage to move within 80 minutes of an Old Trafford Grand Final.
But that’s the fate that awaits the Giants of 2013 if they fail to beat the Black and Whites at the John Smith’s Stadium this evening (8pm).
That glorious night on Sunday, September 1, when Huddersfield lifted the League Leaders’ Shield after finishing top for the first time in 81 years, will already seem a very distant memory.
The Giants failed at the first attempt to reach the semi-finals when resurgent Wigan stormed to a 22-8 triumph against their misfiring hosts seven days ago.
Huddersfield finished top of the pile at the end of the regular season by demonstrating a ruthless attacking edge and a rock-solid defence that very few opponents could match. Both went AWOL against the Warriors.
But if the Giants’ pack gets back to its fearsome best to provide the platform for inspirational captain Danny Brough – he has been shortlisted with Leeds’ Jamie Peacock and Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin for this year’s Super League Man of Steel – to work his magic and feed the ever-hungry and dangerous back line, then Hull will simply have no answer.
Those qualities have all been on display in the three wins over the Rhinos this season – 32-8 at Headingley in March, 24-8 at the John Smith’s Stadium in the Challenge Cup in May and 40-18 at home a month later.
If they all return tonight, the Giants will power into the semi-finals and will be capable of winning at either Warrington or Wigan (who they face will depend on Warrington’s ClubCall pick on Sunday lunchtime) and reaching a first Old Trafford Grand Final on October 5.
It may be do or die.
But there’s a steely determination from within the Huddersfield camp that suggests this most memorable of seasons is far from over.