HUDDERSFIELD were denied an historic first victory at Headingley since 1959 in the cruellest of fashion.
When Larne Patrick charged over for a stunning solo effort with six minutes remaining to make it 20-14, it looked as if a dream could become reality.
But within a few moments Danny McGuire’s converted try had levelled the scores before Kevin Sinfield landed the winning drop goal with the last play of the game to lave the visitors shattered.
It was simply not what they deserved.
The Giants trailed 6-4 at the break and could count themselves unlucky to be doing so, even though the opening exchanges were a little worrying..
Leeds started the contest strongly, with referee Ben Thaler giving them a helping hand by harshly sending Darrell Griffin to the sin-bin for a late challenge on Danny McGuire.
The home side almost took immediate advantage, but Danny Buderus lost the ball in his attempt to score.
Unfortunately, there was no mistake in the 15th minute when Kevin Sinfield’s pass sent Chris Clarkson charging to the line for Sinfield to convert.
At that stage, the signs looked ominous.
But in the second quarter it was the Giants who were the stronger.
Lee Gilmour nearly opened his side’s account but just failed to hang on to Kevin Brown’s try scoring pass after a tremendous Griffin drive had caused the initial damage.Related content
That showed Huddersfield meant business, and in the 24th minute they cut the deficit to two points with a superbly-crafted score.
It was the lively Luke Robinson who made it possible as his short pass was collected at pace by Shaun Lunt to sprint away and round full-back Lee Smith to touch down.
Danny Brough failed to convert, but that failed to dampen the Giants’ enthusiasm, with Stephen Wild so nearly crossing five minutes before the break.
However, that pressure was a taste of things to come during a glorious opening to the second period.
Within two minutes the visitors hit the front for the first time when David Hodgson touched down in the corner from Brough’s grubber.
And four minutes later the winger was over again as he collected Brown’s lovely long cut-out pass to race in at the same corner.
Brough added the extras and dreams of a ‘double’ over the champions looked a reality, which would have been even more the case had Michael Lawrence not been halted 10m short after a great 30m charge.
And the Giants were left to rue that half-chance in the 51st minute when Keith Senior was halted on the line and the ball popped up for Ryan Hall to dive over Leeds’ second converted score.
Sinfield then levelled the scores with a penalty with 11 minutes remaining to set up a thrilling finale.
With six minutes to go, Larne Patrick looked as if he might have sealed a Giants win when he collected the ball 40m out, burst through the defensive wall and then showed great pace to beat the cover to touch down.
Leroy Cudjoe kept his nerve to add the extras and Huddersfield had the lead again.
But within three minutes the scores were level again as Ryan Hall raced clear and kicked ahead for Danny McGuire to win the chase to touch down for Sinfield to convert.
A draw would have been about right.
But in the final minutes Sinfield and Smith both saw drop-goal attempts go wide before the Rhinos skipper broke Giants hearts with a winning one-pointer with the final play of the game.
Scrum half Kyle Wood returned from his Super League loan spell at Castleford Tigers but was sent off for his part in a second-half brawl as the Giants secured a 36-18 Valvoline Cup triumph over Leeds in a Headingley curtain-raiser to the main event. Full details on Monday.
Warrington stunned Super League leaders Wigan by winning 23-16 at the JJB Stadium with tries from Hicks, Myler, Atkins, Westwood earning the Wolves victory – Riddell, Tuson, Richards touched down for the home team.