What did Huddersfield Giants do to deserve this?
After dominating the second half to lead 16-8 with five minutes remaining, the home side looked on course for a first home play-off semi-final – in a repeat against Leeds Rhinos.
But referee Robert Hick’s decision to rule Craig Kopczak had shoulder-charged Zak Hardaker gave Kevin Sinfield a penalty to level the scores, before Ryan Hall’s last-second try denied the Giants and handed Leeds the Super League Leaders Shield in the most dramatic of circumstances.
To say it was cruel indeed would be a massive understatement.
But now Huddersfield must travel to Wigan on Thursday for the right to reach a first Super League Grand final at Old Trafford.
Leeds just edged the tightest of opening periods, with virtually nothing to separate the two teams.
But with the visitors enjoying the territorial advantage, they may have been a little disappointed not to have held more than the slender 8-6 lead.
The fact they didn’t was down to a strong defensive Giants display, which regularly kept the Rhinos at bay.
Although that wasn’t the case in the 10th minute when Kevin Sinfield fed Stevie Ward with relative ease to storm over for a converted score.
That gave Leeds a huge lift – which was incredibly shortlived.
Ryan Hall spilled Danny Brough’s restart and within moments, Jack Hughes and Leroy Cudjoe combined to send Jermaine McGillvary charging over in the corner, for a try wonderfully converted by Brough.
But it took a look from video referee Ben Thaler to give the score the reen light, with checks needs to make sure Craig Kopczak hadn’t knocked-on in the build-up.
At 6-6 after 12 minutes, the predicted tight contest was living up to expectations.
And with further chances at a premium, it wasn’t until the 36th minutes that the scoreboard ticked of again as Sinfield landed a 40m penalty after the Giants were penalised for obstruction.
Luke Robinson was unlucky not to score within five minutes of the restart when he just failed to ground the ball after Zak Hardaker spilled Hall’s awful long pass on his own tryline.
But the scores were level three minutes later when the Rhinos were penalised for interference and Brough landed the goal.
The hosts so nearly took the lead for the first time moments later when Brett Ferres released Joe Wardle to race away, but the cover just got back to thwart the danger.
Such was the see-saw nature, that it was no great surprise when Leeds were the next to be denied when Danny McGuire touched down, yet only because Scott Grix had been obstructed in attempting to collect the ‘bomb’ from which the chance had came.
Great Huddersfield defence was required to hold up Hardaker over the tryline midway through the half, with the Giants then being forced to take their first drop-out moments later.
But within seconds and after a great McGillvary take of a high ball!
The play was taken to the other end of the field for Brough to launch a towering kick which the Leeds defence allowed to bounce and Hughes and Cudjoe picked up the pieces to allow Jamie Ellis to race over from 20m under the posts.
Brough’s conversion made it 14-8 with 15 minutes remaining.
Ellis almost helped extend the lead two minutes later when he broke clear on halfway and kicked ahead, but the ball just wouldn’t bounce right for Cudjoe and the Rhinos were able to put the ball dead.
The lead was increased in the 68th minute, however, when Jamie Peacoack was adjudged to have held on to Josh Johnson for too long and Brough added an easy penalty from in front of the posts.
Although Leeds looked to be fading badly at that stage, they were refused to wave the white flag and were handed a massive lifeline with six minutes left when Tom Briscoe crossed in the corner and Sinfield landed the couch line conversion to cut the lead to two.
A nerve-jangling finale was assured, but it was controversy that reigned in the final two minutes when Craig Kopczak was harshly adjudged to have shoulder-charged Hardaker and Sinfield landed the penalty.
Then with just seconds on the clock McGuire kicked ahead for Hall to collect and race 40m to cross in the corner and sealed the win.
Former Great Britain international Chev Walker has decided to call time on his 17-year career.
The former Leeds centre, who turns 33 next week, has announced he will hang up his boots at the end of the season.
Walker, who is currently captain of Super League-chasing Bradford, made the first of almost 200 appearances for home-town club Leeds at the age of 16 in 1999 and enjoyed Grand Final and World Club Challenge success with the Rhinos.
A member of England’s World Cup team in 2000, he went on to play for Hull KR and had a brief spell in rugby union with Bath before joining the Bulls five years ago.
“My body is telling me that it is time to hang up the boots,” Walker said.
Leigh have confirmed the signing of Australian forward Cory Paterson on a three-year contract from Salford.
The Championship club have paid a nominal transfer fee to the Red Devils for the 28-year-old.