Catalan Dragons fought back from 16-0 to earn a 22-all draw against Huddersfield Giants in the opening game of the second day of Magic Weekend.
Todd Carney scored his first tries for the Dragons but Danny Brough kicked a touch line conversion on the hooter to ensure both sides shared the spoils in a dramatic finish.
Following the bruising encounter Brett Ferres could be facing another long injury lay off after being forced off the field. His right knee appeared to be twisted in a tackle and the second rower left the field immediately afterwards.
Catalan’s Willie Tonga left St James’ Park in an ambulance after suffering a suspected broken jaw after a massive hit by Aaron Murphy while Craig Huby was forced off late on after appearing to be accidentally poked in the eye by team mate Joe Wardle.
It was a scrappy start to the first half by sides with neither side able to capitalise on the other’s errors.
Scott Grix thought he had given the Giants the lead after he and Joe Wardle tackled Escare in the in goal area and the French full-back spilled the ball. Grix dived on the loose ball but the try was chalked off by the video referees after replays showed Huddersfield’s full back had made contact with Escare’s head in making the tackle.
On 16 minutes the Giants were nearly over again, this time Huby broke through the Dragons line before passing to Ferres, who was tackled just short of the line by Carney and Fouad Yaha.
Ferres left the field after the tackle with an injury to his right knee – the same knee that was injured against Salford and kept him out of action for a month and a half.
Huddersfield began piling on the pressure, helped by the concession of several penalties by the French side. After six successive sets close to the Dragons’ line, Huddersfield eventually put the first points of the game on the board on 26 minutes.
Brough’s chip over to the left hand side found Jodie Broughton, who dived over for his first try of the season.
Catalan’s discipline was beginning to let them down, shortly after Ian Henderson was penalised for slapping Jermaine McGillvary, Kyle Wood was on the receiving end of a Greg Mounis second effort after he had already been tackled by Escare. Brough kicked for goal and stretched the lead to eight points.
Five minutes before the break referee Ben Thaler put Catalan on a team warning after Scott Dureau dragged Brough off Escare after the half-back had tackled his opponent. The Giants skipper slotted over another penalty goal to give Huddersfield a 10-0 lead.
Joe Connor had the opportunity to further extend the advantage just before the break but fumbled the ball after Brough’s grubber kick to the corner had elluded Broughton, but the Giants went into the sheds 10-0 up at half time.
Broughton crossed for his second try of the game four minutes after the interval to put Huddersfield 16-0 up, but the momentum soon shifted.
Laurent Frayssinous kepts both hookers – Eloi Pelissier and Henderson – on the field and the latter passed to Louis Anderson who offloaded to the Frenchman to score under the posts.
Tony Gigot almost scored just before the hour but lost the ball just before he could touch down.
Carney scored his first try in Catalan colours soon after, though. The scrum-half sidestepped his way through the Giants defence to score, despite Ukuma Ta’ai’s last ditch tackle. Dureau goaled both tries and the deficit was down to just four points.
Nine minutes from the end in form Zeb Taia scored to level the scores. The second rower stormed over on the left hand side, powering through four attempted tackles to score his seventh try in his last four games. Dureau maintained his 100% record with the boot to edge the Dragons ahead.
Just one minute later Catalan scored again to seemingly grab an improbable victory. Carney made a break before passing inside to Dureau, who was hit high by McGillvary in a desperate attempt to prevent the try. The winger dislodged the ball and Carney reacted first to touch it down, but Dureau’s conversion attempt came back off the upright, giving the Giants hope they could still rescue a point.
And McGillvary’s try on the hooter ensured they would not leave Tyneside empty handed. Eorl Crabtree and Luke Robinson kept the ball alive in centre field in Catalan’s half, before it was spread to the left. Wood produced a superb pass to the 27 year-old who spectacularly touched down in the corner.
Brough landed the goal from the touchline as both sides had to settle for a point apiece.