HUDDERSFIELD’S incredible adventure in the regular Super League XII season ended as it had begun – with a defeat.
But the mood between the early stages of the campaign and Saturday’s dramatic one-point defeat at Hull KR could not have been more of a contrast.
Yes, it was bitterly disappointing to round off such a memorable regular season on a losing note.
However, after making sure the Giants had finished fifth in the play-offs by just one point over Wigan, the defeat at Craven Park didn’t seem that hard to stomach.
And it was clear from the positive reaction from the travelling fans to the players at the end of the contest, that losing to Rovers was hardly the end of the world.
It clearly wasn’t.
What matters more is that the Giants find the perfect response to this – hopefully – minor setback when they travel back to the east coast on Saturday to face Hull in the first Super League play-off game in the club’s history.
Hull KR coach Justin Morgan admitted after his side’s weekend win that he felt Huddersfield had one eye on next week’s contest.
He clearly felt the Giants were holding something back for their historic trip to the KC Stadium.
Let’s hope he’s right
If he is, then there’s no reason at all why the Giants can’t move a step closer to their Grand Final dream.
But if Huddersfield do fail to lift their performance from the one they produced against Rovers, then coach Jon Sharp and his side can forget about making any further progress.
In patches, the Giants were very good indeed, it’s just those patches were generally few and far between.
Admittedly, they did outscore their fired-up hosts five tries to four, but few could deny Hull KR deserved to celebrate staying in Super League with a final-day win.
Rovers were a side determined to finish their season with a bang, and if this rubs off on the Giants this Saturday night, then it could make all the difference in the world.
However, in the opening stages of the Craven Park clash, it was the men from Huddersfield who looked the more determined.
After a bright early start it was no surprise when Paul Reilly crossed in the corner from a perfectly lobbed Kevin Brown pass after eight minutes.
Although Mick Vella crashed over for a try, converted by Paul Cooke, 10 minutes later, there seemed no real cause for alarm. And by the 32nd minute everything appeared to be back on the Giants’ track as excellent approach play created further tries for Reilly and Chris Nero, with Chris Thorman adding one of the conversions to make it 14-6.
Chris Chester’s converted try off Cooke’s clearly forward pass reduced the visitors’ lead to two points at the break.
But midway through the half, the Giants again began to take control.
In the 56th minute, Brad Drew’s kick to the corner was plucked out of the sky by Nero, who immediately fed Rod Jensen to score in the corner.
Then, four minutes later, Nero released Jensen on halfway and the in-form winger scorched clear and then turned full-back Ian Hardman inside out to score under the posts.
At 24-12, a Giants’ win looked the only outcome.
But four minutes later, Ben Fisher scored under the posts from a Rhys Lovegrove break, which had resulted in Thorman leaving the field with a bruised shoulder in the process, and three minutes later the hooker was over again after a superb solo run.
Cooke’s two conversions levelled the scores before the stand-off sealed a thrilling win with a 73rd-minute drop goal.
It was a disappointing end for the Giants.
But surely such a tough work-out won’t do them any harm at all ahead of next week, will it?