Catalans Dragons won 20-6 at Huddersfield Giants to progress to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.
It was a scrappy game with very little quality, but tries from David Mead and Greg Bird, along with six goals from Josh Drinkwater, saw them over the line to become the first side to seal their place at the Macron Stadium.
Catalans opened the scoring after six minutes, with a penalty from Drinkwater after the scrum-half was taken out by Adam O’Brien as he attempted to chase his kick.
Catalans had the slight edge over the course of the first half but Huddersfield held firm, particularly during the ten minutes when they were down a man after the sin binning of Danny Brough.
The visitors did double the advantage in the final minute before the break though, as Drinkwater added another two after Sebastine Ikahihifo conceded a penalty for holding down.
The game came to some kind of life at the start of the second half with two tries in the first six minutes. First Leroy Cudjoe got a try on his return to action despite the strong suspicion of a double movement, and Brough’s goal gave the Giants the lead.
It lasted only a couple of minutes though, as Darnell McIntosh failed to catch a Tony Gigot chip to the corner and Mead was on hand to take advantage.
Drinkwater added the conversion and added two more goals after that, both from penalties conceded by Ikahihifo.
Drinkwater had a part to play in the Dragons’ second try as well, with his kick and chase forcing a drop out from which Michael McIlorum sent Bird over from close range.
Any chance of a comeback seemed to disappear when Brough’s score with ten minutes left was ruled out for an obstruction by Daniel Smith on McIlorum. Max Garcia was sent to the bin late on but Catalans were safely through to the semi-finals by then.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Two sides in trouble
These two sides had picked up form of late, but you would not have known it from the game that they served up here.
Both failed to produce any real moments of quality in what was a very scrappy contest, and if either of these sides thought that they were out of trouble after their recent run of form, they will surely now be thinking again.
Plenty for Woolford to work on
New Huddersfield coach Simon Woolford was said to have had a lot of influence in the last few weeks as the Giants have gone on a winning run, but the positives from those matches were not in evidence in a performance riddled with error after error.
They have tended to have patches in games in recent weeks which have been enough to see them over the line, but it was poor from the first minute to the last and the Giants never had any kind of foothold in the game.
Man of the Match – Josh Drinkwater (Catalans Dragons)
It’s fair to say that there weren’t many candidates for this award, but the Catalans scrum-half was the most influential player on the field.
Not only did he keep the score ticking over in their favour with his goals, but his kicking game throughout kept the Dragons just about on the front foot.
His teammates rarely seemed in tune with his intentions but he controlled the tempo of the game with positional kicks and forced three drop outs.
Huddersfield Giants 6
Drop Goals: n/a
Catalans Dragons 20
Tries: Mead, Bird
Goals: Drinkwater (6)
Drop Goals: n/a
Huddersfield: Rankin; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Mamo, McIntosh; Turner, Brough; Ikahihifo, O’Brien, Clough; Murphy, Mellor, Hinchcliffe.
Interchanges: Leeming, Roberts, Smith, English.
Catalans: Gigot; Broughton, Mead, Wiliame, Tierney; Bird, Drinkwater; Simon, McIlorum, Moa; Jullien, Garcia, Casty.
Interchanges: Anderson, Bousquet, Maria, Edwards
Referee: Gareth Hewer