Huddersfield squander a half-time lead at Catalans in the final match of the season. Here’s our verdict…
Both sides came into the contest with very little to play for in their final match of the year, with the only possible change seeing Huddersfield finishing 5th if they could register an away win. This looked possible when Lee Gaskell assisted Louis Senior, who crossed for his first try in Super League in the opening minute of the match. Danny Brough added two points to the score with his conversion.
The contest was closely fought and the Dragons had a try disallowed due to an offside call by the officials. It took Huddersfield till the 22nd minute for Innes Senior to score. Half-back Danny Brough was unable to convert, but five minutes later the Dragons were penalised ten metres out and directly in front of the sticks which allowed Brough to take the two points on offer and give the Giants a 12-0 lead at half time.
However, Catalans fought back in the second half with a try after 10 minutes from David Mead who linked up well with influential half-back Josh Drinkwater, and Lucas Albert converted to narrow the gap to only six. Mead also crossed over nine minutes later with the move started by Samisoni Langi. The corresponding conversion attempt was successful, levelling the scores as they entered the final quarter of the match.
Ryan Hinchcliffe was then sin binned in the final appearance of his career, while Mickael Simon also was shown a yellow card for his part in the skirmishes. Catalans took advantage of the extra space on the field and once again it was Mead with the try, as Drinkwater dinked a kick over the top and Mead finished to get his third of the match, Albert converted as the Dragons led for the first time in the match with only eight minutes remaining.
Catalans sealed the victory with a try two minutes from time with their, and Mead’s, fourth, rounding off a good season on the whole for the French side with a seventh-placed finish in the table and a historic Challenge Cup success.
Huddersfield will be fairly content with their season after drastic improvement under coach Simon Woolford. He was able to bring optimism into the club as they finished in sixth position, which looked highly unlikely earlier on in the competition.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Final Farewell for Hinchcliffe
Ryan Hinchcliffe announced earlier in the season that he was retiring and will be sorely missed by both teammates and fans after an excellent spell in Super League with the Giants.
He may have ended his three-year stint with Huddersfield on the losing side, and was sent to the sin bin for an altercation with Simon, but that certainly will take nothing away from a great career.
Both Sides Could Challenge Next Season
After the start to the season not many people would have expected to see either side in the Super 8s, let alone both of them, and you’d have to argue the future looks bright. Huddersfield have a well mixed squad with a strong blend of youth and experience, especially when a coach can get the right outcomes out of the players. Tipped by many for coach of the year, Simon Woolford will be looking to have a similar impact as Justin Holbrook who also impressed when initially taking over.
Catalans’ season looked bleak to begin with, especially losing half-back Luke Walsh who subsequently retired due to injury. However the introduction of Josh Drinkwater brought back a belief in the players which was shown to great effect with their Challenge Cup success. That piece of history could potentially lead to a Super League match in Barcelona at the Nou Camp next season, which surely will only benefit rugby league both in the region and overall.
Man of the Match – David Mead (Catalan Dragons)
David Mead scored all four of Catalans’ tries for a win that at half-time didn’t look too likely. Catalans seemed to up a gear in the second half and Mead was positioned well and in perfect sync leading to his four tries. It was a strong final performance on the wing from a versatile player, which will likely come in handy as the Dragons strengthen their options for next season.
Catalan Dragons 22
Tries: Mead (4)
Goals: Albert (3)
Drop Goals: n/a
Huddersfield Giants 12
Tries: L Senior, I Senior
Goals: Brough (2)
Drop Goals: n/a
Catalans Dragons: Albert, Mead, Jullien, Langi, Williame, Bird, Drinkwater, Simon, Mcllorum, Moa, Casty, Goudemand, Baitieri.
Interchanges: Anderson, Maria, Da Costa, Belmas.
Huddersfield Giants: Gaskell, McGilvary, L Senior, Mamo, I Senior, Russell, Brough, Clough, O’Brien, Matagi, Roberts, Mellor, Hinchcliffe.
Interchanges: Leeming, Lawrence, Roche, English.
Referee: Greg Dolan