Huddersfield 32 Wigan 22: Giants edge Warriors in thriller to whet appetite for Challenge Cup final

If the Challenge Cup final has half the drama of Thursday's Super League clash between Huddersfield Giants and Wigan Warriors, rugby league fans are in for a treat.

Huddersfield celebrate Louis Senior's first try. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Huddersfield celebrate Louis Senior's first try. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Both coaches rang the changes with an eye on the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium showpiece on May 28 but there was no shortage of excitement.

Tui Lolohea was the orchestrator in chief for the Giants, producing a spellbinding performance to fire his side to a 32-22 win that takes them back into the top four.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Huddersfield led from the moment Louis Senior opened the scoring after six minutes but the points were not in the bag until the winger completed his hat-trick on the full-time hooter.

Louis Senior is denied by Bevan French. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

The powerful Ricky Leutele was another prominent figure for the Giants, marking his 200th career appearance with a try.

Huddersfield almost let the game slip away after building up a commanding lead but once again they proved their squad depth in another impressive showing.

It was billed as a dress rehearsal for the Challenge Cup final yet the show was missing leading men on both sides.

Huddersfield took the opportunity to rest several stars including Jermaine McGillvary, Chris Hill and Luke Yates, while the Warriors were without Jai Field, Cade Cust and Liam Farrell among others.

Wigan celebrate Matty Nicholson's second try. (Picture: SWPix.com)

The Giants made eight changes in all to Wigan's seven but they had quality in key positions and it showed in the early stages.

From a scrum in a central position inside the Warriors 20, Theo Fages and Lolohea combined to create the space for Senior to coast over in the corner.

Oliver Russell nailed his touchline conversion and Huddersfield remained on the front foot, threatening to take the game away from the visitors inside the opening quarter.

Bevan French - starting at full-back in the absence of Field - denied Senior a second try with a superb last-ditch tackle but sensing a weakness on Wigan's right edge, the Giants kept going back for more.

Theo Fages was the official man of the match. (Picture: SWPix.com)

Lolohea appeared destined to score following a break by Leutele only to pick the wrong option, with Russell unable to take his drop-off close to the line.

The Warriors fired a warning shot when Sam Halsall broke clear and took his side deep into Huddersfield territory.

On the next play, French was taken out by Joe Greenwood attempting a chip and chase, a yellow card offence in the eyes of referee Tom Grant.

Wigan had the chance to turn the screw with the Giants down to 12 men but they were unable to shift the momentum.

There was more zip about Huddersfield's play and they extended their lead when Leutele held off four defenders to score after taking a nice offload from Jack Ashworth.

Russell added the extras to make it 12-0 and the Giants were in control approaching the half-hour mark.

But a good line from Iain Thornley got Wigan back into the contest, Halsall adding the finishing touches after French lost his footing under pressure from Lolohea.

Harry Smith was on target from the tee to reduce the deficit to six points, a scoreline that flattered the Warriors at the break.

If Huddersfield's execution was slightly off in the first half, Lolohea showed the way three minutes after the interval.

After benefiting from a slice of fortune when his grubber kick ricocheted back into his arms, the full-back put Senior over for his second with a sublime long pass.

Russell made it 18-6 from out wide to give Huddersfield the kind of lead they did not look in danger of relinquishing.

The Giants seemingly delivered the killer blow on 53 minutes through Jake Wardle, one of the players benefiting from the raft of changes.

The centre made a break down the right flank and stayed alive to touch down in the corner on the next play from Lolohea's pass.

Russell's missed conversion appeared to be a mere blot on his own copybook but it came into focus after Wigan hit Huddersfield with a quick one-two.

First Halsall completed his double after slick handling from the Warriors before debutant Matty Nicholson took advantage of hesitant defending from Smith's high kick to score a dream try.

Smith missed his first conversion but made no mistake second time around to send Wigan into the final 15 minutes only 22-16 behind.

Huddersfield gave themselves breathing space when Sam Hewitt touched down Fages' neat kick in behind, only to let the Warriors back in once again with Brad O'Neill's offload putting Nicholson over for his second.

Smith's conversion made it 26-22 to set up a grandstand finish and the tension reached fever pitch after Wigan forced a drop-out with a minute left on the clock.

But man of the moment Lolohea found touch with a nerveless kick and on the last play of the game Senior completed his hat-trick to put the seal on an important win for the Giants.

Huddersfield Giants: Lolohea, Senior, Wardle, Leutele, Golding, Russell, Fages, Greenwood, O'Brien, Wilson, Hewitt, Ashworth, English.

Substitutes: Levi, Lawrence, Mason, Trout.

Wigan Warriors: French, Halsall, Thornley, Bibby, Miski, Astley, Smith, Singleton, O'Neill, Ellis, Isa, McDonnell, Partington.

Substitutes: Mago, Havard, Shorrocks, Nicholson.

Referee: Tom Grant.