IT has to go down as one of Huddersfield’ Giants most heroic but ultimately heartbreaking Super League performances.
Despite facing Wigan Warriors lacking seven first-choice players, the home side were just three minutes away from pulling off a remarkable triumph.
With captain Danny Brough one of the missing, Jamie Ellis stepped up magnificently into the key playmaking role and landed a 71st-minute drop goals to edge his side 13-12 and a dream victory was on the cards.
But with just three minutes remaining, the dream need in tears when Josh Charnley crossed in the corner and Matty Smith converted to make it 18-13 and leave Huddersfield not enogh time to find a fightback.
It was cruel in the extreme on all of the 17 brave battlers who had worn the claret and gold with such pride on the night.
Ellis was clearly an inspiring figure in this glorious defeat,although also spare a thought for 18-year-old part-time centre Sam Wood, who stood up so magnificently and didn’t let the side down one bit.
He was one of several players who went down with cramp given the Giants’ effort on the night.
And it was just a crying, crying shame they all came away with nothing.
It may only have been 6-0 to the Giants at the break, but it was arguably one of their finest opening 40 minutes of Super League action.
No-one outside the club itself gave them a prayer ahead of kick-off.
However, by the break, it was a different story.
Against almost all of the odds, Huddersfield held that deserved slender lead after defending for their lives and making the most of one of ever all chances they created.
They were unlucky not to score midway through the half when substitute prop Nathan Mason was held up over the line, while a forward pass from Jamie Ellis thwarted Kruise Leeming’s clear run to score.
But there was nothing wrong with Ellis’s next contribution in the 25th minute.
Good carries to the line took the Giants into the Wigan 20, paving the way for a wonderful long, looping pass from Ellis to hit Jermaine McGillvary perfectly to give the winger the space to squeeze in at the corner.
To add to the sense of home excitement Ellis landed the touchline conversion, and Huddersfield were six points ahead.
Wigan and their big guns may have been desperate to find a way back into the contest as quickly as possible.
But with a thick claret and gold wall constantly in their faces, the Warriors were unable to battle their way through and by the half-time hooter were looking at a big ‘nil’ by their name.
That statistic was unfortunately wiped away within three minutes of the restart.
With the visitors looking as if coach Shaun Wane had given it to them with both barrels at the break, they were quickly on the front foot and levelled the scores when Matty Smith’s high kick to the corner was patted back by Dan Sarginson for Liam Farrell to pick up and score.
Smith converted and the Giants were immediately under pressure.
The home side’s cause also wasn’t helped when captain Ryan Hinchcliffe was forced to withdraw shortly after following a strong challenge which left him limping.
Credit to the Giants, who refused to be deterred by the loss of their on-field leader.
And in the 56th minute, they were desperately unlucky not to regain he lead when video referee Ben Thaler ruled Jake Connor had failed to get the vital touch to Leeming’s grubber. It took several replays to each that conclusion.
The ‘no try’ call did look a little harsh, and to rub salt into the
wounds, Wigan almost immediately went upfield and took the lead with a
fortuitous try from Dominic Manfredi! converted by Smith.
Huddersfield were , however, given a lift when Hinchcliffe was able to return.
And with the hooker back to his prompting best, the hosts hit backwith 15 minutes remaining when a great offload from Ukuma Ta’ai fed Jake Connor to nod out a peach of a pass for Jamie Foster to score in debut.
Ellis was unable to convert, but at 12-10 the Giants were right back in it.
With their tails up, Huddersfield levelled the scores with an Ellis penalty and he nudged his side a point ahead with a sublime drop goal in the 71st minute.
But his side’s hearts were broken with three minutes remaining when Josh Charnley touched down in the corner and Smith added another touchline goal to finally sink the hosts.