The 30-16 defeat at John Smith’s Stadium was a step backwards and an indication of just how much work Rhinos have to do to be able to compete with the leading sides.
They were 22-4 behind at the interval and, though the second half was an improvement, they finished well beaten.
The first half was a rout, with Leeds were on the back foot throughout.
After Giants had gone 22-0 up, Rhinos dug in and showed some good character, but it’s not acceptable to start playing when the game has gone.
As Warrington did last week, Rhinos failed to make an early chance count and were overrun after that, until half-time.
Huddersfield scored their first try on 13 minutes and added three more by the 32nd - and the scoreline would have been even more horrific if Will Pryce hadn’t missed with three of his six shots at goal.
Giants were very good, but Rhinos didn’t help themselves with some silly mistakes and disorganisation with and without the ball.
Huddersfield’s third try came after Richie Myler kicked out on the full midway inside Giants’ half.
Rhinos were in possession in front of the hosts’ posts seconds before Huddersfield scored their third.
There’s no doubt Leeds were weakened by the absence of Kruise Leeming, through illness. He is probably their most influential player and was outstanding in last week’s win.
Surprisingly, Jarrod O’Connor, who has played hooker before but is a loose-forward by trade, started in the number nine role.
That was despite two hookers being in Leeds’ initial 21-man squad. Brad Dwyer took his usual place on the bench and Corey Johnson didn’t make the 17.
He is instead set to play on dual-registration for Bradford Bulls tomorrow at Sheffield Eagles, along with Alex Mellor.
By the time Dwyer got on, after 31 minutes, Leeds were 22-0 down. Rhinos outscored Giants after that, but nobody played particularly well.
Austin did his best to make things happen and a couple of kicks caused problems, Dwyer, Matt Prior - despite spilling a drop out in the first moments of the second half - and Sam Walters all battled hard and long-term casualty Harry Newman got some gametime in the second half.
Pryce kicked Giants ahead in the fourth minute with a penalty following a ball steal, but Leeds had the first real chance when David Fusitu’a made a break, but couldn’t get the ball away to Rhyse Martin in support.
Giants’ opening try, on 13 minutes, had a touch of fortune about it. Jake Wardle got in some space on the left, kicked in field and Ricky Leutele trapped the ball with a foot before picking up and diving over.
Pryce couldn’t convert and then missed with a straightforward penalty attempt moments later, following a high shot by James Donaldson on Oliver Wilson.
The ball went dead, though and in the set from Leeds’ 20-metre restart, Jermaine McGillvary got over from Jake Cogger’s pass and this time Pryce added the extras from the right touchline.
Giants added a third try on 23 minutes, in the next set. Wardle scored it, but the damage was done by a superb pass from Leutele.
The next try was a shocker from Leeds’ point of view. They failed to get organised on the last tackle close to Giants’ line, as Zak Hardaker tried to convince referee Liam Moore to restart the tackle count.
O’Connor passed to Cameron Smith, he juggled and the ball popped to Chris McQueen - a second-rower - who sprinted 80 metres to score. Other than that, Smith was one of Leeds’ better performers overall.
Pryce converted and Rhinos could have gone in at the break even further behind, but Ash Handley, Liam Sutcliffe and Myler combined to tackle McGillvary into touch in goal.
That was a minute before the interval and Leeds scored in the next set. Blake Austin’s break created the chance and Handley, captain on the night, crossed from Myler’s pass.
Rhinos’ second try came on 56 minutes and was a good effort.
Austin’s kick on the last was pushed back by Handley and gathered by Smith. He juggled, changed direction and shipped out a fine long pass to Sutcliffe.
Martin converted from the touchline, but Leeds conceded back to back penalties soon afterwards, Pryce landed the second of them and Rhinos were three scores behind with 16 minutes left.
Five later, Tui Lolohea intercepted from Myler and though he and McGillvary, who was in support, couldn’t go all the way, Josh Jones forced his way over from close range and Pryce’s goal made it 30-10.
Leeds grabbed a late consolation try through Hardaker, who got to Austin’s kick before Giants’ Ashton Golding. Martin’s second goal completed the scoring.
There was drama outside the stadium after the pre-match fireworks, on the hillside behind the away fans’ stand, ignited a blaze which the fire service were called to put out.
The penalty count finished seven-four in Giants’ favour. It was four-two in the first half. Both teams had three set restarts.