Try: Handley, McDonnell, Martin, Smith Aim: Martin
Huddersfield Giants (13) 17
Try: McGillvary, McQueen 2 Goals: Connor 2 Drop Goal: Connor
Leeds Rhinos fought back to beat Huddersfield in a thrilling West Yorkshire derby that lifted them above the Giants in the Super League table.
Two tries in the first seven minutes from Jermaine McGillvary and Chris McQueen gave the Giants the perfect start.
Jake Connor’s drop-goal after Ash Handley left for Leeds gave Huddersfield a 13-4 lead at the break.
Tries from James McDonnell, Rhyse Martin and Cameron Smith proved decisive before McQueen prepared a tense finish.
Connor’s failure to convert McQueen’s try, in a game that had already seen Leeds wasting plenty of runs from the tee, proved costly.
Huddersfield started the day ahead of Leeds in the table on points difference alone and, although overrun, they still have a game in progress on a Rhinos side who produced an equally stunning turnaround against the Catalan Dragons last time out. they were at Headingley.
McGillvary marked his return after a four-game absence with a fine finish in the corner, after a deflected kick from Connor was finally put in the hands of Tui Lolohea, who offloaded for the winger.
McQueen then teamed up with Chris Hill for his fourth try of the season, leaving Leeds with plenty to do early on.
The hosts then lost a man as Richie Myler was condemned harshly for an accidental high contact on McGillvary, but a tackle from James Bentley to keep Kevin Naiqama over the line limited the damage from the fast-starting Giants .
Connor kicked in a penalty before Leeds returned to full strength, at which point the hosts played with renewed aim and effort.
After a sustained period of pressure and a series of failed raids down the line against a resolute Huddersfield defence, Leeds finally got through Handley.
With the final kick of the half, Connor ensured the visitors returned to the locker room with a nine-point lead after netting a drop-goal just past the posts.
McDonnell eluded four defenders as he drove through resistance from Huddersfield to close the gap shortly after the interval.
Leeds turned fierce defending from the last tackle on their own line into the most scintillating minute of the game, sweeping the length and breadth of the pitch before Martin crossed to bring the hosts within a point of Huddersfield after 56 minutes .
And when McGillvary then knocked down a high ball on the hour mark, Smith surged to put the Rhinos ahead for the first time – but not before his landing and the hint of a knock-on was reviewed by the televised match official.
A devastating run from Lolohea set the stage for the Giants to fight back through McQueen, but on a day of wayward conversions for both sides, Connor couldn’t add the extras to restore their lead.
It was time for Lolohea to attempt a drop-goal to level him in the dying moments, but Leeds held on for the win.
Leeds head coach Rohan Smith:
“We’ve been down in most games at half time, but our second halves have been particularly good since the end of last season and they had to be.
“It’s a good sign to be able to come back from behind, but we also have to be careful at the start of the game.
“We have to figure out if there is anything specific. But I thought we started with good intentions and there were a lot of things we couldn’t control in that first half.”
Huddersfield head coach Ian Watson:
“We knew we were going to build this year and take some time to get people on the same page, but the most important thing is that everyone who has played against us has been at full strength.
“We are far from that and we face a lot of adversity, but the way the boys apply themselves is superb.
“We are showing good signs and that will stand us in good stead for the rest of the year.”
Leeds Rhino: Myler, Macdonald, Newman, Martin, Handley, Austin, Sezer, Oledzki, O’Connor, Holroyd, Bentley, McDonnell, C Smith.
Trades : Tetevano, Sangare, Lisone, Johnson.
Huddersfield Giants: Pryce, McGillvary, Marsters, Naiqama, Halsall, Connor, Lolohea, Hill, Peats, English, McQueen, Livett, Yates.
Trades : O’Brien, Ikahihifo, Rushton, Ashworth.
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