Huddersfield coach Rick Stone apologised to the travelling fans after watching his side concede 42 points before half-time as Leigh Centurions clinched promotion to Super League.
Trailing 48-10 after 50 minutes, Huddersfield produced a spirited rally, scoring 30 points in 24 minutes, but they had left themselves too much to do after a shambolic first-half display.
Huddersfield’s defeat ensured Leeds will be in Super League in 2017, while the Giants will still avoid the Million Pound Game if they win their two remaining games, at home to Leeds on Sunday and at Hull KR in a fortnight, but Stone knows they will need a big improvement.
“After a performance like that, you’ve got to apologise to the supporters because that was totally unacceptable,” Stone said.
“At 42-10 down, you’ve got to ask yourself if you are really a Super League side. It was a fair question and one I asked the players at half-time.
“I was embarrassed, particularly by the first 20 minutes. I suppose we nearly made every mistake we could have in the first 20 minutes.
“The second half was okay, but if you leak 42 points you don’t deserve to win games. They could cruise a little bit. We scored some tries and gave them a little bit of a scare, but it was a fair margin to catch up.
“I told them at half-time we needed some reaction if they had some pride in what they do and we got that which gives us a little bit of something to take away from the game, because the way things were going was pretty scary to be honest. But you can’t take too much away from the winners, they deserve the win and they deserve their elevation into Super League.”
Leigh never looked back after scoring three tries in the first 12 minutes. Former Huddersfield winger Matty Dawson scored a first-half hat-trick and stand-off Martyn Ridyard ended the game with a personal haul of 24 points.
Michael Lawrence and Aaron Murphy crossed early for Giants, before their late rally with tries from Jake Connor, Leroy Cudjoe (2) and Ellis (2), with Danny Brough taking his goal tally to six from seven attempts.
Leigh: McNally, Higson, Worthington, Brown, Dawson, Ridyard, Drinkwater, Hock, Higham, Weston, Maitua, Paterson, Tickle. Substitutes: Hood, Hansen, Hopkins, Dixon.
Huddersfield: Connor, McGillvary, Cudjoe, J. Wardle, Murphy, Brough, Ellis, Ikahihifo, Hinchcliffe, Huby, Ta’ai, Lawrence, Roberts. Substitutes: Leeming, Johnson, Rapira, Mason.
Referee: R Hicks (RFL).