Huddersfield and Leeds played out a dramatic West Yorkshire derby as Ash Handley’s late try meant both sides left with a point.
In the week that coach Rick Stone left the club, the injury-plagued Giants led temporarily by Chris Thorman put in a brilliant shift to claim an unlikely point against the champions.
They led for much of the game only to see the win slip through their grasp with three minutes to go, yet it was a performance full of positives for Thorman.
It took less than a minute for the game’s first try, as Jack Walker lost the ball in the tackle, the Giants taking advantage working it right for Jared Simpson’s first try in the corner.
Simpson’s second came from another good passing move that created the space in the right corner, and Brough added both goals to give them a 10-0 lead.
Leeds improved as the half wore on, and Kallum Watkins found a gap in the defence to bring the deficit down, before a Brough penalty put the home side eight points up at the break.
However, the Rhinos started the second half on fire and were in the lead within 12 minutes. The first was all about Ryan Hall, as he broke half way up the field before finishing with a drive round the defence to score on the next play, then Ash Handley continued his great form with another try.
Leeds were dominating but to Huddersfield’s credit they didn’t give in, and they had the lead back when Adam O’Brien bulldozed his way to the line under the posts.
Brough added another two from a penalty to stretch the lead to six, but Handley was the star for Leeds again as he broke clear to score and Watkins levelled with the boot.
Jordan Rankin and Richie Myler both had drop goal attempts in the final minute but put them wide, and a draw was probably a fair result.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Makeshift Giants side shine for Thorman
Huddersfield were certainly the underdogs in this one after the sacking of coach Rick Stone during the week.
An injury-plagued side lined up with two young debutants in Sam Hewitt and Louis Senior, but both impressed along with Jared Simpson, who scored two well-taken tries on his first appearance of the season.
The kids did well but everyone seemed to pick up their performance, and if Stone was watching he would be wondering why the players failed to give him that sort of effort in his final weeks in charge.
Leeds need a goal kicker
This was the second week on the trot where Leeds outscored their opponents in terms of tries, yet not come away with the victory.
Against Castleford Watkins only nailed two of five conversions while Like Gale was perfect from the tee, and although here he converted three of the four tries, it was Brough’s three conversions and two penalties that made a difference and earned the Giants a point.
Experienced, consistent goal kickers win you the tight games, and although their is no fault to Watkins who is doing his best to fill that void, Brian McDermott will be aware that with a specialist kicker his side would have three extra points in the table.
Man Of The Match- Ash Handley (Leeds Rhinos)
For the third week running Ash Handley has been one of the stars for Leeds, and he is making the left centre position his own in the absence of Liam Sutcliffe and Jimmy Keinhorst.
He now has a remarkable six tries from the last three matches, and the two this week both came from running great lines to find a gap in a resilient Giants defence. Handley has been around the squad for a few years now and it looks like he has finally earned a regular starting spot.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Huddersfield Giants interim head coach Chris Thorman:
“We got what we wanted and that was a response. It’s difficult to be too critical because of where we’ve come from in the last month so I’m proud of them.
“We showed a lot of character today, we showed that we can play and that we aren’t a bad team. We have a lot of people missing and were against a good Leeds side who are in the habit of winning games.
“I’m sitting here disappointed we didn’t win and that shows how far we’ve come in the last six or seven days. I have to mention the young kids making their debut, Sam Hewitt and Louis Senior. They didn’t look out of place and did what I expected them to do.”
Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott:
“It was a couple of jagged tries from them which put us 12-0 down on the scoreboard, and all of a sudden it became a contest. I don’t think we really reacted well to some of that adversity to start with. It took as a while to at least attempt to get a grip of the game.
“That said we did fight back and get ourselves in a position but Huddersfield stayed determined all the way through, they never dropped off and credit to them for that.
“Against Castleford last week he [Ash Handley] opened them up, and there were some nice touches there today. It’s good that Liam Sutcliffe and Jimmy Keinhorst are back from injury on Monday and I’ll be having a tough conversation with one of those three, possibly two.”
Huddersfield Giants 22-22 Leeds Rhinos
Huddersfield Giants 22
Tries: Simpson (2), O’Brien
Goals: Brough (5)
Drop Goals: n/a
Leeds Rhinos 22
Tries: Watkins, Hall, Handley (2)
Goals: Watkins (3)
Drop Goals: n/a
Huddersfield: McIntosh; Simpson, Turner, Murphy, Senior; Rankin, Brough; Ikahihifo, O’Brien, Clough; Roberts, Lawrence, Hinchcliffe.
Interchanges: Ta’ai, Smith, Dickinson, Hewitt.
Leeds: Walker; Briscoe, Watkins, Handley, Hall; Moon, Myler; Mullally, Dwyer, Singleton; Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney.
Interchanges: Golding, Ferres, Smith, Oledski.
Referee: Jack Smith