Huddersfield Giants were unable to build on their encouraging draw with Leeds as they went down 27-6 to Super League’s bottom club Catalans Dragons in Perpignan.
The hosts produced 23 unanswered points in the second half to prevent the hard-working Giants getting a place in the top eight.
There was a shock with the absence of Danny Brough – Jordan Turner and Jordan Rankin playing at half back.
Interim coach Chris Thorman handed a debut to 17-year-old wing Innes Senior, whose brother Louis made a first start in the previous match against Leeds Rhinos.
Alex Mellor, Dale Ferguson and Daniel Smith returned to the starting line-up, while Shannon Wakeman was on the bench alongside Ryan Hinchcliffe and Colton Roche, making his debut.
In addition to ankle-injury victim Brough, the Giants were without Jermaine McGillvary, Jake Mamo, Leroy Cudjoe, Lee Gaskell, Tom Symonds and Oliver Roberts.
Turner started impressively with his kicking while the Giants came up against some strong tackling – Adam O’Brien forced off as early as the fifth minute.
Turner and Ferguson were both hit late, but Hinchcliffe was unable to force his way over the line, and the teams were pretty evenly matched in the first 15 minutes.
The Giants broke the deadlock, however, on 19 following an excellent run from Ukuma Ta’ai.
His strong carry created the chance for Turner to throw a cut-out pass and Aaron Murphy dummied his way over the line with Senior his option on the left touchline.
Darnell McIntosh landed a confident conversion but then immediately undid the good work by dropping the kick-off and allowing Catalans an immediate response with a try from Jodie Broughton in the left corner as Rankin almost tackled him out.
Tony Gigot miss the kick and the Giants then dominated the rest of the half, being unlucky not to extend their lead.
The Catalans had a massive let-off when video referee Phil Bentham decided Murphy had not scored after stripping the ball from Fouad Yaha.
Then, after being forced to twice drop out from under their posts, the home side were lucky to stop Rankin near the line.
Thorman’s side went into the break with a 6-4 lead, but they lost in in the second minute of the second half, again on review.
This time Benjamin Jullien was given the green light after a kick from Gigot looked to have been knocked on by Yaha.
If that wasn’t bad enough, things got worse for the Giants on 46 minutes when Greg Bird showed all his State of Origin experience to break the line and feed full-back David Mead for a try in the left corner.
Gigot was unlucky with the kick, which bounced out off the far upright, but the home side were suddenly 14-6 to the good.
Whatever coach Steve McNamara said to his Frenchman at half time was certainly working because despite the Giants trying to steady the ship, the home side went further ahead on 53 with a cracking try – Samisoni Langi powering down the middle before finding Gigot in support and his excellent inside pass put Mead under the posts for his second try, easily converted by Gigot for a 20-6 lead.
Catalans were dominating, and only excellent goalline work from Rankin adnd Jared Simpson prevented Mead scoring again after Gigot had earlier been held up inches short.
Turner almost got the Giants back on the scoresheet when he was held up by Gigot on 61, but the Giants had a let-off at the other end when McIntosh spilled another Gigot kick and Broughton was punished for a push on the full-back when getting a touch over the line.
Their luck didn’t last long, however, as Lawrence conceded a penalty on 67 minutes and Michael McIlorum set up Broughton for another try in the left corner. Gigot again hit the woodwork with his kick, but Catalans led 24-6.
Excellent covering work by Senior and McIntosh prevented Mead scoring on a length-of-the-field break after Broughton’s slick pass, but the French side were not to be denied more points.
Firstly, Gigot booted an easy penalty from in front of the posts after Catalans had been held up.
Then the talented No31 dropped a goal to ensure his side had their second win of the season.