THE ‘Curse of the Cs’ has struck again for the Giants in 2011.
After suffering their first defeat of the season at Castleford and then their worst defeat at Crusaders, Huddersfield have now suffered their most agonising defeat at Catalan.
Having seemingly taken a grip on the contest to lead 12-6 at the interval, the visitors were unable to push home their advantage and blew several great chances before finding themselves 13-12 behind with 10 minutes remaining after Scott Dureau’s magnificent drop goal from halfway.
Even then the opportunities kept on coming, with Danny Brough first opting for an attacking kick to the corner rather than going for a drop goal in the 72nd minute before eventually scuffing an attempt two minutes later.
But then with less than a minute on the clock came their biggest opening of all.
With the Dragons hanging on for dear life, the ball was swept out to the left for the impressive Lee Gilmour to collect and race clear.
He looked almost certain to finish off in the corner, but just as he prepared to get the ball down, full-back Cyril Stacul somehow got across to produce the matchwinning tackle.
As Gilmour was blocked, the ball came loose, the danger was averted and the passionate French fans were able to celebrate another big win in Super League XVI.
Yet even though this crowned an outstanding month for the Dragons which had started with stunning wins at Wigan and Warrington, this came as no consolation whatsoever to the Giants and their loyal supporters, who had once again turned up in excellent numbers.
With this narrowest of defeats, head coach Nathan Brown’s men again found themselves having lost top spot in what is proving the most unpredictable of seasons ever.
But Huddersfield really do only have themselves to blame for loss No4 of the campaign.
Time and time again, the Giants kept on giving possession away cheaply to put themselves under undue pressure.
It started right from the kick-off as Brough’s effort went straight out on the full and was a recurring theme right to the bitter end.
Most of the time they got away with it, with a solid defensive effort getting them out of trouble.
But they should have known with that first error of the game that you’re potentially asking for trouble.
From the resultant penalty on halfway, the Dragons took the play to the line for prop David Ferriol to stroll through a static defence close to the line.
Dureau converted and Huddersfield had been given the rudest of awakenings.
Fortunately, however, their response was magnificent.
Brough’s second kick-off was spot-on and Catalan were forced to drop out from under their own posts.
Good work from Scott Grix and Andy Raleigh then put their side on the front foot and created the position for Gilmour to brush off his marker and dive over in the corner.
Brough added the extras and was then repeating the act in the 22nd minute.
A strong charge to the line from Luke O’Donnell left the home defence stretched and the busy Grix was on hand to collect from Robinson and then jink his way over.
At that stage, the Giants were hoping to push on.
But their best chance to extend their first-half lead came in the 32nd minute when O’Donnell broke clear and fed the supporting Darrell Griffin.
The prop was caught 10m short and subsequently lost the ball after being momentarily knocked out – forcing an early end to his involvement.
More openings came and went at the start of the second period.
Within six minutes of the restart, Dale Ferguson and Kevin Brown combined to send Leroy Cudjoe over, but the try-scoring pass was ruled forward.
Then Michael Lawrence was held up on the line by magnificent defence.
Also at that stage, Huddersfield declined an invitation to kick a penalty after Grix was caught high.
But with the Giants on top at that stage, a third try looked a distinct possibility.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
With the tap penalty coming to nought and other potential openings falling flat, Catalan began to sense this might just be their day.
And that was proved beyond doubt in the final quarter.
After 60 minutes, the scores were level for a second time as Jason Baitieri showed great strength to stretch out and score close to the line for Dureau to convert.
Then five minutes later, the Giants were denied a second try, this time by the video referee, when it was ruled Brown had stripped the ball in a two-man tackle in the build-up to a ‘try’ in the corner for Jermaine McGillvary.
And within five minutes, the Giants were made to pay an even higher price when Dureau calmly slotted over his one-pointer to set up the most thrilling – but ultimately fruitless – of finales.