A stirring rearguard action wasn’t enough to preserve Leeds Rhinos’ 100 per cent start to the season or completely break their Huddersfield Giants hoodoo, but they were good value for their point in a 12-12 draw.
In the end, only the width of a post separated Leeds from a fourth successive win and their first victory in six meetings with Giants.
Skipper Kevin Sinfield seemed to have won it with a drop goal attempt two minutes from time, but the ball hit the stanchion and rebounded away.
A draw was a fair result, after Giants had four touchdowns ruled out – all of which were the correct decision.
They did most of the pressing, after Leeds had opened each half the stronger, but Rhinos’ truly epic defensive effort will give them great heart going forward.
The visitors clung on to a two- point lead at the interval thanks to Sinfield’s conversion against a couple of missed shots at goal by Danny Brough, after the sides had scored a try each.
Rhinos came out all guns blazing and took an early lead, but, could not kick on and Giants pounded their line solidly from the 10th minute.
It took a huge defensive effort – plus some luck – to restrict Giants to just the one touchdown, but it seemed all the tackling would catch up with Rhinos at some stage. Remarkably, they stayed strong under similar second half pressure.
Huddersfield levelled in the third quarter, but Rhinos moved two points clear with 14 minutes left only for Giants to hit the front soon afterwards.
That looked like breaking Rhinos’ backs, but they showed tremendous resolve to get level eight minutes from time and both sides had kicks to win it in the dying moments.
Jamie Jones-Buchanan came off the bench for Leeds to make his first appearance of the season. Mitch Achurch was called among the replacements, but didn’t get on. Ryan Bailey and Chris Clarkson were the two players to drop out.
Rhinos – who continued to vary their kicking game – made a powerful start and Stevie Ward continued his impressive return from his 10-month lay-off by scoring the opening try, after seven minutes.
Carl Ablett – playing his 199th game for Leeds – and Jamie Peacock, who set a huge lead plahying the full-80, both went close, Giants were caught offside and following the penalty Kevin Sinfield’s pass split the defence and Ward went over.
Sinfield converted, but Giants were over the line moments later through Grix, only for video referees Richard Silverwood and Ian Smith to spot an obstruction earlier in the move.
That came in the set from Giants’ first penalty and their second also almost produced a try, Joe Wardle powering over only for referee James Child – who didn’t have a good game – to spot that Brough’s pass was forward.
And Giants were denied a third time on 23, eventually. Brough put up a kick, which Kallum Watkins and Wardle contested.
The ball came loose and the Giants centre touched it down. The video ref duo took an age to decide the ball had come off Watkins’ hand, then went to check the grounding – and that view showed Wardle had a foot over the dead ball line.
Eorl Crabtree’s introduction off the bench turned the tide in Giants’ favour after Leeds’ fast start and Brough, playing off the back of the forward momentum he generated, began to tease the visitors’ defence.
With Leeds struggling to get a grip of Giants’ offloads, a try seemed inevitable and it came eight minutes before the break, following a drop out.
Jodie Broughton – the ex-Leeds academy winger – was the scorer on his debut following his off-season move from Salford, after Luke Robinson, Brett Ferres, Grix and Wardle had handled. Broughton hobbled off in the second half after taking a heavy knock in a tackle.
Rhinos were penalised for offside from the re-start. That would be fair enough if refs took action every time such an offence occurred and would soon wipe it out.
Unfortunately it’s a once or twice a season event and just causes frustration among players and fans.
As it happened, Child redressed that at the end of the set by failing to spot what looked like a knock-on by Ryan Hall from a kick close to Leeds’ line.
Kylie Leuluai was then penalised for not standing square, but Brough – who had failed with his earlier conversion attempt – was off target with his kick just before half-time.
Eight minutes into the second half Cudjoe claimed a touchdown from another Brough kick, which Hall failed to take, but the video referees ruled no try.
Giants were awarded a penalty though, but Leeds’ defence stood up magnificently to keep them out.
Giants finally got level 13 minutes into the second period when Brough potted a penalty goal after Jones-Buchanan’s high tackle on Robinson.
That took the former Castleford and Wakefield stand-off to 1,500 Super League points.
Leeds had a rare chance when Zak Hardaker’s long pass found Tom Briscoe, but Wardle barged him into touch just short, then Watkins passed behind his winger into the advertising boards.
With 16 minutes left Leeds received back-to-back penalties – after Hall had been lucky not to concede a drop out from what seemed a harmless kick – and Sinfield converted the second of them, for a foul by Antonio Kaufusi on Peacock, to edge the visitors back in front. But just three minutes later Giants finally grabbed the try which broke Leeds’ resistance, Wardle capping a fine game by sliding over at the corner, after Jones-Buchanan had been caught in possession on the last.
Brough landed a superb touchline conversion, but just four minutes later Joel Moon made a break, McGuire linked in and then Hardaker’s pass was finished by Watkins at the corner, though Sinfield could not add the extras.
McGuire missed with a drop goal attempt on 77 minutes, then Sinfield hit the left hand upright.
Child penalised Leeds to gift Giants a last chance, only for Brough to be off-target with his attempted one-pointer. The penalty count finished 9-6 in Giants’ favour.
Full-back Jamie Shaul scored two tries as Hull returned to winning ways with a crushing 44-16 victory over cash-strapped Bradford Bulls last night.
St Helens made it four wins out of four thanks a 38-18 win over Hull KR to move clear at the top of the table and leave Rovers still seeking their first Super League victory of the season.