Huddersfield Giants 24
Tries: Wardle (2), Lawrence, McGillvary
Goals: Brough 4/5
Leeds Rhinos 24
Tries: Delaney, Ablett, Moon, Watkins
Goals: Sutcliffe 4/5
Huddersfield Giants fought back from being 16 points down at one stage to earn a point against league leaders Leeds Rhinos at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The home side led 24-22 until Liam Sutcliffe’s 76th minute penalty earned the Rhinos a share of the spoils.
In the final seconds of the match, Sutcliffe failed with a drop goal attempt and Rob Burrow lost his footing near the Giants line when he looked likely to score.
Leeds coach Brian McDermott left rugby union-bound skipper Kevin Sinfield out of the 17-man squad.
The draw means Leeds are now five points clear of second placed St Helens who are yet to play this weekend, while Huddersfield remain 4th.
Joe Wardle got Huddersfield off to the perfect start with the first try of the night. Danny Brough made a break and the 23 year-old centre backed his captain up and was given a stroll-over by Brough.
Five minutes later Ukuma Ta’ai almost touched down, but brilliant defence from Kallum Watkins prevented the Tongan second-rower from grounding the ball.
Leeds then clicked into gear, racking up 22 points in as many minutes, to take charge of the game. First, Jamie Peacock passed to Sutcliffe, who in turn found Brett Delaney to put the Rhinos’ first points on the board.
Carl Ablett then grabbed his thrid try of the season after receiving a short pass from hooker Paul Aiton, the 29 year-old was able to outmuscle Craig Huby on the ground to score under the sticks.
On the half-hour mark Joel Moon further extended the Rhinos’ lead, making Super League’s meanest defence look ordinary in the process. The returning Jamie Jones-Buchanan drew in the Giants’ defence before giving the ball to Zak Hardaker who found Moon. Neat footwork left Leroy Cudjoe, Jermaine McGillvary and Jack Hughes in the former Salford man’s wake and Sutcliffes 100% record with the boot had Leeds 18-6 up.
It got even better five minutes before half-time for Leeds, as Watkins scored his 80th try in Leeds colours. This time Sutcliffe moved the ball to the right and Jimmy Keinhorst provided the pass for England international to touch down in the corner. Sutcliffe couldn’t convert but the visitors held a commanding 22-6 lead.
Brough goaled a penalty on the half-time hooter after he was prevented from chasing down his own chip over the Leeds defensive line by Jones-Buchanan and Delaney, but Huddersfield trudged off at the break 14 points behind.
Paul Anderson’s put their opponents under all kinds of pressure in the second half, though. However, Leeds defended four Huddersfield sets in their own half and overcame the concession of three penalties at the start of the half.
Delaney was then forced off after his head bounced off the ground while he was being tackled. He was taken off for concussion checks and did not return to the field.
It was just before the hour when the Giants finally broke through Leeds’ resilient defence. A short pass from Scott Grix put Michael Lawrence over for his second try in successive games. However, in the process of scoring the back-rower twisted his knee and limped out of the game.
Lawrence’s try sparked Huddersfield into life and four minutes later they were in again, Jermaine McGillvary scoring this time. Brough’s high kick to Leeds’ left was gathered at the second attempt by the winger who scored his sixth try of the season. Brough missed with the boot for the first time but the deficit was down to just four points.
With 13 minutes left to play, the Giants went ahead in the match for the first time since the fourth minute. Wardle took a Brough pass back on the inside to score under the sticks. There was a question of obstruction with it, however, as Huby appeared to block off Adam Cuthbertson, but the try was awarded by the video referees and Brough kicked Huddersfield in front.
They might have killed Leeds off soon after. Brough’s kicks into the in-goal area were causing havoc, Wardle almost grounded one and Leeds conceded two goal line drop-outs in a matter of minutes, but the Giants couldn’t find the killer try.
Four minutes from time and the visitors were attacking the Huddersfield line. Wardle made a superb tackle on Mitch Achurch to save a try, but was then caught offside on the fifth tackle of the set, presenting Sutcliffe with the opportunity to level up the scores. He duly obliged, and might have even won it with a late drop goal attempt that just went wide of the uprights.
Brough had a one-pointer attempt charged down which almost led to Leeds scoring themselves on the hooter. Jamie Peacock hacked the loose ball forward before Grix lost it and Ablett threw it left to Rob Burrow, who appeared to be in acres of space. The 32 year-old’s studs betrayed him, though, and the hooter sounded as he was tackled on the ground.
Leeds remain without a win at the John Smith’s Stadium since September 2011, while the Giants are now three games unbeaten.