Oliver Roberts caps surprise win for Huddersfield at second-placed Leeds

Aaron Bower at Headingley
The Guardian
<span class="element-image__caption">Huddersfield’s Paul Clough is wrapped up by Stevie Ward, left, and Keith Galloway in the Giants’ surprise win against Leeds Rhinos at Headlingley.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Ed Sykes/Reuters</span>
Huddersfield’s Paul Clough is wrapped up by Stevie Ward, left, and Keith Galloway in the Giants’ surprise win against Leeds Rhinos at Headlingley. Photograph: Ed Sykes/Reuters

This will not rank among the contenders for the end‑of‑season highlights DVD but for Huddersfield it will not matter one bit.

Five days before this surprise win the Giants, without a win in nine games, were beaten by a part-time side, Swinton, in the Challenge Cup. They were visiting a Leeds side who would have gone top of Super League with a fourth successive victory.

Yet following an emotionally charged 24 hours for the club they produced the kind of performance unseen from a Huddersfield side in 2017 to turn the form book on its head once again.

The run‑up to the game had been overshadowed by the death of Jennifer Davy, the wife of the Huddersfield owner, Ken: something the players admitted was motivation to get their season back on track. They were defensively resilient, determined and, on the whole, simply better than Leeds when it mattered.

“I think everyone can be proud of this club tonight,” the Huddersfield coach, Rick Stone, said.

While Huddersfield were above average by their own recent standards, Leeds were quite the opposite. They have not been top of Super League since the night they won the League Leader’s Shield in 2015 – against Huddersfield, ironically. But that wait will go on for at least another week following a lacklustre display that had more hallmarks of last year’s Leeds – the perennial strugglers – than the side who have impressed for large periods of this season.

“I thought we were really poor,” Brian McDermott, said. “Huddersfield were really tenacious and I give them credit but I didn’t think it was a great game.” The Leeds coach was right. Gareth Southgate had chosen Headingley over the Manchester derby but the England manager saw few moments of class in a game that dipped below the lofty standards most of 2017 has set.

The sides were level at half-time following two tries apiece; Leeds led through Matt Parcell’s opportunistic try before Jake Mamo and Kruise Leeming made it 12-6 with back-to-back tries. Leeds levelled via Joel Moon’s try and finished the first half the stronger of the sides but the second 40 minutes was a markedly different story.

There were 19 points, all of which were scored by Huddersfield – but not before Leeds had a contentious try for their captain, Danny McGuire, ruled out by the video referee. “It looked like a try to me,” McDermott said. Within 90 seconds of that decision Huddersfield were ahead through Dale Ferguson, and tries for Darnell McIntosh and Oliver Roberts either side of a Danny Brough drop goal secured a victory which could yet prove the catalyst for brighter times for Huddersfield after the darkest of weeks on and off the field.

Leeds Walker; Briscoe, Watkins, Handley, Hall; McGuire, Moon; Galloway, Parcell, Mullally, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Cuthbertson. Interchange Burrow, Ward, Singleton, Garbutt.

Tries Parcell, Moon. Goals Watkins 2.

Huddersfield Mamo; McGillvary, Mellor, Murphy, McIntosh; Brough, Wood; Ikahihifo, Leeming, Wakeman, Roberts, Ferguson, Hinchcliffe. Interchange Clough, Smith, English, O’Brien.

Tries Mamo, Leeming, Ferguson, McIntosh, Roberts. Goals Brough 5. Drop goal Brough.

Referee C Kendall. Attendance 13,169.

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