BATTLING Huddersfield were forced to dig deeper than ever before to secure a hard-fought 18-14 National II North League triumph at never-say-die Sheffield Tigers.
After looking second best in the opening 40 minutes to trail 14-8, all the signs suggested the men from West Yorkshire would be unable to back-up successfully from last week’s excellent 26-15 triumph home over Westoe.
In almost every key battle, Huddersfield were struggling.
The Tigers were hungrier on attack – with their back line causing the visitors no end of trouble _ and were brutal and savage in defence. It was proving an uncomfortable afternoon for player-coach Dan Hyde and his boys.
But what a difference half-time can make!
Yes, the hosts had the wind and slope in their favour during the opening period, and that clearly helped their initial cause.
Yet it wasn't just the elements that helped turn the game on its head after the break, it was the way Huddersfield rolled up their sleeves, learned the lessons of that shaky first 40 and got back to basics - and exceptionally well.
From being a loose side early on, they became tight as a drum, with the forwards very slowly and surely taking control.
And with the vastly experienced Hyde coming off the bench after an hour to steady the ship, the final piece of the jigsaw was in place to seal the success.
Within minutes of his introduction, Huddersfield were laying the foundations for their late match-winning charge.
Hyde's intervention gave his pack just enough lift to finally start to create the chances for the backs to take the contest away from their hosts and into their own hands, with fly-half Chris Johnson the inevitable main beneficiary.
With cracks beginning to appear in the Tigers’ defence at last, Johnson exploited them to perfection, crossing for his side’s second try with 13 minutes remaining to nudge them 15-14 ahead before putting the icing on the cake with a 77th-minute penalty.
Great Huddersfield cover defence did prove vital to deny Jon Buchanan six minutes into injury time, but that would have proved cruel indeed given the events of that rock-solid second-half showing.
But in light of Sheffield’s excellent opening assault, the home side may well have felt they deserved something from the contest.
Although inspirational leader Nick Sharpe gave Huddersfield the lead with a six-minute unconverted try from a line-out close to line and Johnson followed up with a penalty seven minutes later to make it 8-0, the Tigers were soon showing their teeth.
With their backs playing with pace and authority, it was no surprise when they reduced the deficit to a point midway through the half as Nick Pearson finished off a fine sweeping move and Jonny West converted.
And with further pressure being asserted, no-one could say they didn't deserve a second seven-pointer when a superbly-crafted blindside break created the opening for supporting full-back Peter Swatkins to finish off in style after 30 minutes.
Another Sheffield score at that stage could well have been curtains for the visitors.
But they managed to stay strong for the rest of the hallf and then eventually made their greater experience at this level count.
After an opening period of second-half stalemate, the visitors began to win the pack battle and increase the pressure.
Numerous drives close to the Sheffield line began to take the toll, with prop Mark Chivers sent to the sin-bin in the 64th minute for a professional foul in one desperate bid to keep his opponents out.
But that merely delayed the inevitable as more good work on the Tigers line eventually gave Johnson the chance to plunge over under the posts and then add the extras.
Several more drives almost brought further Huddersfield reward, but with the trusty boot of Johnson securing another three points late in the piece, the job had been done.
Sheffield Tigers: Swatkins; Broadley, Outram, Buchanan, Graham; West, Drage; Chivers, Thomson, Cone, S Pearson, Cook, N Pearson, Mackenzie, Hayter. Subs: Ross, Joel, Gidlow, Smyth, Morley.
Tries: N Pearson (20), Swatkins (30).
Conversions: West 2 from 2.
Huddersfield: Andrews; Ryder, Clark, Owen, Sutcliffe; Johnson, Hinchliffe.; Battye, Entressengle, Stringwell, Hinchliff, Rhodes, Lewis, Dempsey, Sharpe. Subs: Lancaster, Davies, Hyde, Brook, Duffy
Tries: Sharpe (6), Johnson (67).
Conversions: Johnson 1 from 2.
Penalties: Johnson 2 from 2.
Referee: Wayne Falla.