The Giants registered their first Super League win of 2021 last weekend against the Leeds Rhinos but the Challenge Cup quarter finals had handed them a cruel game against league leaders St Helens in the second of a double header at Emerald Headingley.
A place in the last four was up for grabs, the Giants have only won one of the last ten Super League encounters with Saints and haven’t beaten them in the Challenge Cup since their semi-final win in 2009, going on to lose the final to the Warrington Wolves.
The Giants picked up where they left of last week with a delightful Aidan Sezer grubber kick on five minutes, collected by Michael Lawrence for an easy walk-in try. Sezer added the conversion for a shock 6-0 lead.
Regan Grace responded for Saints on seventeen minutes when he picked up a loose ball and forced his way over the line. Lachlan Coote was unable to add the conversion, the Giants with a slender two-point lead.
It had been steady Saints pressure which led to Mark Percival’s thirty-second minute try as he was spun onto his back but managed to get the ball onto the ground for the four pointer from ten metres out. Coote added the conversion to give his side a 10-6 lead.
Inside the last-minute fast hands from the Giants saw Darnell McIntosh take a Kenny Edwards pass and fly over for an acrobatic try in the corner. Sezer kicked brilliantly from the touchline to send the Giants into the interval with a two-point lead.
All out attack from Saints at the start of the second half culminated in a penalty which Coote slotted over to level the scores.
On fifty-two Regan Grace got his second of the night as he stretched to take a high pass from Coote and went through a crowd of tacklers to again force the ball onto the ground. Coote added the conversion for an 18-12 lead.
Theo Fages attempted a drop goal on sixty-one but it was charged down and at the end of a second set in possession the opportunity again presented itself to the Saints half-back and this time he hit the target.
The Giants grabbed a lifeline on sixty-seven after a Sezer kick to the corner was knocked on by Saints into the path of Greenwood who drew the defender and found McIntosh to go in for his second of the night. Sezer added again from the touchline to reduce the arrears to a single point with twelve minutes remaining.
Back to back sets for Saints on seventy-five enabled them to find an overlap down the left wing and Grace needed little encouragement to dive over for his hat-trick try. Coote was wide with his conversion, the lead five points with just under four minutes remaining.
It was Saints who made progress into the semi-finals of the 2021 Betfred Challenge Cup but just as in the last round, they knew that they were in a battle from the first hooter to the last. Some indiscipline from the Giants coupled with devastating finishing from Regan Grace was the difference between the two sides.
St Helens: Coote (3G), Makinson, Naiqama, Percival (T), Grace (3T), Lomax, Fages (DG), Walmsley, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Thompson, Mata’utia, Batchelor. Subs: Amor, Paasi, Welsby, Smith.
Huddersfield Giants: Gaskell, McGillvary, McQueen, Leutele, McIntosh (2T), Cogger, Sezer (3G), Yates, Cunningham, Lawrence (T), Edwards, Jones, Greenwood. Subs: English, O’Brien, Wood, Trout.
Referee: James Child.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 8-6, 10-6, 10-10, 10-12 : HT : 12-12 16-12, 18-12, 19-12, 19-16, 19-18, 23-18 : FT.