|Huddersfield Giants (14) 26|
|Tries: Senior 2, McIntosh 3 Goals: Sezer 3|
|Leeds Rhinos (6) 27|
|Tries: Hurrell 2, Gale, Briscoe, Mellor Goals: Martin 3 Drop-goal: Gale|
Luke Gale landed a golden-point drop-goal in extra time to complete a remarkable comeback victory for Leeds Rhinos against Huddersfield Giants.
Louis Senior and a Darnell McIntosh double put Giants 14-6 up despite Konrad Hurrell’s reply for Leeds.
McIntosh added his third and Senior his second after half-time to establish a 26-6 lead with 18 minutes to go.
Leeds somehow clawed it back with Gale, Luke Briscoe, Alex Mellor and Hurrell tries taking the game to extra-time.
Huddersfield’s Lee Gaskell, otherwise outstanding throughout the game, missed a drop-goal attempt and that proved costly for a dejected Giants side.
One concern for Leeds after the relief of their dramatic finish was the condition of James Donaldson, who was withdrawn on a stretcher after a tackle with Adam O’Brien with a lower back injury which is not thought to be serious.
Leeds deliver drama on Super League return
Super League’s ability to deliver such drama in the sanitised – in more ways than one – atmosphere of the coronavirus pandemic could be a huge fillip in the push for recognition.
Clubs have struggled financially in the four-and-a-half months without live sport and have gambled by bringing the game back without crowds and crucially without income – and storylines like this one could be massive in terms of publicising the game beyond its traditional spheres.
In the bio-secure bubble of Emerald Headingley – the ‘neutral’ venue which just happens to be Leeds’ ground – it was the Giants who made it look like home for much of the game.
For an hour they looked back to their 2013 pomp when they won the League Leaders’ Shield.
In former Canberra half-back Aidan Sezer they have a playmaking general, who has released the pressure and brought the best out of stand-off Gaskell in turn – particularly his perfect cut-out ball assist for McIntosh’s second score.
Their forwards were also dominant, but as their lead stretched out to 26-6, Leeds found the desire and intensity that had been lacking in the first three-quarters to turn the game on its head.
Previously outmuscled and out-thought at times, the Rhinos were suddenly revitalised, and in the crafty Gale and powerhouse Hurrell they had the tools for the job.
They found a way to get Harry Newman, whose centre play had been a facet of Leeds’ best performances this season, involved in the game and his surge helped create Briscoe’s score.
Huddersfield’s nerves grew when Mellor crashed over against his old club and Tonga centre Hurrell’s second, another powerful effort close to the line, came in the final moments of the game.
Rhyse Martin’s conversion on a night where he was not note perfect proved key, and so was the boot of Gale, whose ability to deliver those clutch kicks – as he did so often for his former club Castleford in big games – was once again in evidence.
Leeds coach Richard Agar:
“We felt Huddersfield came out and smacked us in the mouth and we didn’t respond great. They played really basic and kicked well and they caused us problems.
“I thought we lost our composure and were way too sloppy with the ball. For 55, 60 minutes we were being soundly beaten. However, it just goes to show what a little bit of momentum can do.
“I personally didn’t think there was enough time to get back but, once you post two back-to-back tries and get within a couple of scores, it does start to create a bit of doubt among the opposition.
“I’m pleased to get the win. We showed a lot of spirit.”
Huddersfield coach Simon Woolford:
“This game goes for 80 minutes and, when they got one on us, for some reason we lost our way, both with the footy and without it.
“There’s going to be some very hard lessons to come out of that one.
“We spoke about our discipline before the game but we let them out of their own end really easily in that last 15 minutes, our discipline went out the window.
“We went away from the things that worked well for us defensively in the first 65 minutes. We had ample opportunities to regroup and reset but for that last 15 minutes we weren’t good enough to do that.
“You could see them grow a leg in the last five or 10 minutes and you could see us completely lose our way.”
Huddersfield: Golding; L Senior, Wardle, Turner, McIntosh; Gaskell, Sezer; Gavet, O’Brien, English, Edwards, Wood, Lawrence.
Interchanges: Holmes, Wilson, Matagi, Murphy.
Leeds: Myler; L Briscoe, Newman, Hurrell, Handley; Gale, Lui; Seumanufagai, Dwyer, Oledzki, Mellor, Martin, Prior.
Interchanges: Smith, Donaldson, Cuthbertson, Leeming.
Referee: Robert Hicks