AFTER the feast came the famine as the Giants were left still looking for their first win in the Super League play-offs.
Having booked third place in the final table by destroying Wigan at home, Huddersfield found the going much tougher as they faced a Saints side who won through their resilience rather than having any particular sparkle.
In fact, save for the opening 20 minutes, there was very little to choose between two sides who stifled each other’s attacking ideas – hence a 14-2 lead for Saints at half-time was improved by just a solitary point in a drab second half.
Given the way the play-offs are set up this season, if the formbook is followed then the Giants will be back at Knowsley Road the weekend after next for the semi-final.
Whether this had anything to do with the lack of adventure shown in the fayre that was served up is arguable – but if these two do meet again there is surely no way that game will be anything like as unexciting as this one was.
In mitigation the Giants, without Jamahl Lolesi and David Faiumu through injury and with Keith Mason and Scott Moore still in the cooler, had to make positional changes.
Their cause was further hindered when Stephen Wild suffered an early knock, though he determinedly ran this off, and then Larne Patrick was carried off in the second period, but the pattern of the game suggested that any permutation in personnel would have struggled to come up with the goods to break a dogged Saints side.
As a contest the game was over in 20 minutes as it became obvious that the handful of points Saints had put on the scoreboard were easily going to be enough.
That is not to say that the Giants were poor, because there was plenty of very necessary hard graft. But with defences on top Huddersfield just could not find the wit or guile to breach Saints’ rearguard and never really looked like crossing their opponents’ line.
As in the Challenge Cup final against Warrington, the Giants didn’t help their cause by putting themselves on the back foot in the opening minutes.
The game was just two minutes old when Saints managed to put the block on Liam Fulton getting a kick away and in his attempt to keep the ball alive, he succeeded only in flipping a loose pass into the hands of Tony Puletua and the forward showed a decent turn of speed to race in at the side of the posts to open the home side’s account.
Kyle Eastmond added the goal, his only success of the match with the boot, and Huddersfield were left to chase the game.
On 10 minutes an infringement in a tackle handed Huddersfield a penalty which skipper Brett Hodgson chose to kick – and they would be the only two points the Giants could muster in 80 minutes.
Three minutes later Saints carved out a chance when Sean Long and Leon Pryce combined and sent Eastmond to the line.
He was unable to ground the ball, but from the next play the Giants were caught off guard and Pryce cut through to score.
On 21 minutes the best move of the game produced Saints’ third try, with long passes from Long and Pryce giving Eastmond the room to run for the corner and release the ball for Francis Meli to touchdown.
The few chances the Giants could create were doomed due to handling errors, and in their best effort, Patrick unable to hang on to a pass after Eorl Crabtree had battered his way to eight yards from the Saints line.
In the second half Long added a drop goal on 71 minutes – third time lucky for the half back after two risible previous attempts for one point – and the Giants were left looking at an elimination game against Catalans Dragons on Friday.
Hopefully back at home it will be the attack-minded Giants who ripped apart the Warriors who will be on show!