11 Mar 2020

Giants exit Challenge Cup at first hurdle

Huddersfield Giants 0-18 Toronto Wolfpack

By Joe Buck

Huddersfield Giants’ Challenge Cup dreams are over at the first stage following an 18-0 home defeat to Toronto Wolfpack.

A brace from Ricky Leutele and three penalties from Gareth O’Brien secured Toronto’s first victory of 2020.

The early moves were made by the Canadians and within three minutes, the visitors were ahead in the tie.

A promising start from Toronto saw them put a few promising moves together and eventually, Leutele crossed to give Wolfpack a deserved early lead, converted by O’Brien.

Toronto’s early kicks were causing havoc for Giants with Darnell McIntosh having to deal with a couple of testing kicksby Josh McCrone.

The first ten minutes belonged solely to the visitors and when Leutele doubled his tally for the evening, Giants were in a spot of bother.

A simple grubber kick through the middle of the sticks was enough for the Toronto Centre to pounce on and the Wolfpack’s lead was doubled following a simple conversion.

When Huddersfield eventually tested the Toronto defence, they were their own worst enemies with a knock-on and then a forward pass halting two promising moves.

Despite shipping 66 points last week against Leeds Rhinos, the Toronto defence remained resolute for large parts of the first half and the Giants attack, often appearing to be lacking in creativity, struggled to break the visitors down.

They fell even further behind after an O’Brien penalty on 27 minutes, giving the visitors a healthy 14-point lead.

When McIntosh’s offload found the hands of Chase Stanley with five minutes to go of the first half, it was clear Giants needed to hear the half-time hooter sooner rather than later.

And then, almost on cue, O’Brien smashed another penalty over the posts to give Toronto a 16-0 lead at half-time.

As the sides came out for the second half, the elements began to take over with the wind and the rain causing havoc on the pitch.

McIntosh’s knock-on early on was soon followed by a McCrone knock-on by Wolfpack, thanks largely to the weather conditions in West Yorkshire.

As the rain and wind continued to swirl, Giants still rarely threatened the Toronto try line with Sam Wood forcing a dropout the only talking point from the first 15 minutes of the second period.

A poor fifth-tackle play by Toronto allowed Giants a full set from inside the Wolfpack half and their most promising opening so far.

A kick from Tom Holmes forced a knock-on and once again, Giants had a guilt-edged opportunity to open their account.

But, true to form in the tie, Giants squandered the opportunity and with just over twenty minutes to play, they still trailed 16-0.

The need for quick points made Giants try and force the issue and their attack never really looked fluent throughout.

The issue was compounded by the visitors when they kicked their third penalty of the evening to put themselves 18-0 ahead.

Giants now had 15 minutes to haul themselves back into the game or their Challenge Cup dream would be over for yet another season.

Unsurprisingly, the Giants fans that braved the elements started to leave in dribs and drabs, eager to get away from a grim night on and off the field at the John Smith’s Stadium.

O’Brien, who was looking for his sixth kick of the evening, saw an effort hit the post, meaning Giants still had a small ray of light of getting back into the game.

As the game entered its final stages, surprisingly, it was Toronto on the front foot and looking to add more to their current haul of 18 points.

When Kenny Edwards slipped on the fifth, twenty metres out, to no reaction from the Cowbell Army, it was clear the fans had given up hope of an unlikely comeback.

Then, when Jermaine McGillvary also spilt the ball moments later, a deafening silence fell over the John Smith’s Stadium, Giants fans resigned to the fact there would be no cup glory in 2020.

In easily Huddersfield’s worst eighty minutes of the season, Toronto brought Giants back down to Earth with a dominating display, leading to a chorus of boos from the claret and gold fans as the hooter sounded.

Huddersfield rarely threatened in attack and sloppy errors and some poor kicking meant that, on the rare occasion they put a wounded Toronto defence under pressure, they had zero memorable moments.

This performance was very reminiscent of some of the worst performances of last campaign and, once again, it came in front of their own fans.

Attentions now turn solely to Super League and a game against Hull FC on Thursday where Simon Woolford will be demanding a huge response from his squad. 

They then face Wolfpack once again on the 27th March where they will hope to enact some revenge.

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