It is hard to work out just what the next step is for Huddersfield Giants.
Head coach Rick Stone’s outfit are now without a win in their last nine games in all competitions and really the only way is up after a Challenge Cup exit at the hands of a struggling Championship team.
Swinton Lions arrived with a patched-up squad yet left the John Smith’s Stadium having booked themselves a place in the last 16, despite having trailed 18-16 at half-time.
The Giants were far from convincing in the opening half but seemed to be doing enough to hold their rivals at bay.
But in the second half the full-time Super League side failed to shake off their lower division rivals, when you would have thought fully-professional status might have seen them run away with the game, and paid the price for never shaking off their dogged and determined rivals.
However, from a Giants perspective it was perplexing that in attack they never truly showed enough impact and penetration to kill off the Lions, and in defence were never diligent enough to deny a persistent if unspectacular Swinton offence.
The Giants were without around 10 first-choice players – Izaac Farrell, Matty English and Adam O’Brien all made their competitive first team debuts – and Stone said: “It wasn’t good. It probably gives an indication of where our squad are at the moment.
“The depth and number of players out of the team at the moment hurt us a bit.
“I have no worries about the boys who were out there.
“They tried but the opposition came and challenged and were hungry and deserved their win.
“The Championship is full of hardened pros who have been around the block and know to win games, and we saw a bit of that today.
“There’s no denying that is a massive blow for us and everyone is very disappointed – you can feel it.
“There were a few senior players out and a few long-term injuries and those with niggles, but we had a good enough team out to win but we didn’t.”
Aaron Murphy gave the Giants an ideal start with a converted try after only seven minutes but the Lions hit back through scores from Shaun Robinson and Rhodri Lloyd to lead 10-6.
Sam Wood and Darnell McIntosh then crossed to put the home side into a seemingly comfortable 18-10 advantage.
However, further Swinton tries from Michael Butt and Connor Dwyer, either side of the break, gave Swinton the first sniff of a shock victory.
And despite Oliver Roberts helping restore Huddersfield’s advantage in the 66th minute, the lower league side refused to be denied.
Luke Waterworth grabbed the decisive try five minutes from time, which Chris Hankinson converted to add to Chris Atkin’s earlier three goals.
Farrell successfully kicked four out of four goals for the Giants, but it was not enough to prevent their cup exit.
Swinton coach John Duffy paid huge tribute to his players and medical staff after his injury-riddled Lions became the second Championship side to knock Super League opposition out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup this weekend.
Less than 24 hours after Hull KR beat Leigh, Duffy’s Championship strugglers, just a place above the relegation zone, came from behind three times.
Duffy could argue that Swinton’s success was even more impressive than Hull KR’s, because of their injury issues.
He said: “We only had 15 fit players yesterday. It was a massive achievement for the club but everything goes on the players and the medical staff today - nothing to do with the coaching staff.
“I’d like to thank our medical staff for doing a great job over the last couple of weeks.
“They have turned it around for us and the boys really dug deep.
“We had three new faces - two young lads on loan from Wigan Warriors (Josh Woods and Caine Barnes), who I thought were outstanding, plus Liam Carberry (out of contract) who has not played for five or six months.
“We’ve not been able to train properly through sore bodies and having two games in four days last week.
“But we came up with a simple plan and stuck to it and ended up grinding out a good win.”