Huddersfield Giants 12 Wigan Warriors 14: Ian Watson's side beaten at their own game in frustrating contest
Their doggedness and sheer will to win – allied with an ability to complete high – took the Giants to the Challenge Cup final and third place in Super League.
But, like most other sides, they are still playing their way into the 2023 season and were beaten to the punch by a determined Wigan Warriors outfit on Friday night.
In the continued absence of new signing Jake Connor, Ian Watson's team lacked a spark in attack and paid the price for costly errors at the other end.
All three Wigan tries came from kicks, two on the back of basic mistakes.
Huddersfield will tidy their game up with the benefit of time but for now they must accept that they have a 50 per cent win rate after four games, leaving them some distance behind early pacesetters Warrington Wolves.
After spending the entire 2022 campaign in the top four, the Giants – who were forced to sit out round one – find themselves out of their comfort zone.
Their cause was not helped by the loss of Josh Jones to a head injury but they could have no complaints after a predictable attacking performance.
While Huddersfield were never out of the contest, they failed to convince throughout the 80 minutes.
With half-back pairing Olly Russell and Will Pryce still finding their way in the game, the Giants were all too predictable.
Huddersfield dominated field position in the first half yet had only three Russell penalties to show for their industry.
For all their good ball, the Giants failed to carve out a clear-cut opportunity and were in generous mood at the other end.
Wigan's opening try on 15 minutes owed to an uncharacteristic error by veteran Leroy Cudjoe as Huddersfield came away from their own line.
The winger attempted a pass to Esan Marsters which was not on and saw his centre quickly closed down, with the ball bouncing out of his hands and into the grateful grasp of Cade Cust who dabbed through for Bevan French to finish under no pressure.
All of a sudden, the Giants had lost their early momentum and it was Wigan asking the questions.
Harry Smith's hanging kicks were proving awkward for Huddersfield's back three, in contrast to the hosts' unthreatening last-play options.
As dangerous as Smith's towering bombs were, two subtle kicks did the damage.
After seeing Cust unlock the Giants earlier in the half, Smith sent a shallow kick into the sky and benefited from a fumble by former Wigan team-mate Jake Bibby.
Huddersfield academy product Jake Wardle was on the spot to finish to nudge the Warriors back ahead.
A second missed conversion attempt by Smith ensured the Giants were still in touch as half-time approached.
Replacement props Seb Ikahihifo and Jack Ashworth lifted the tempo with a series of rampaging runs but Wigan held firm.
Having accepted the offer of two points twice earlier, it was no surprise when Huddersfield pointed to the posts with only seconds of the half remaining.
Russell, who knocked over two penalties either side of French's try, duly added two more points from in front to make it 8-6 to Wigan at the end of a competitive, if uninspiring, opening 40 minutes.
There was a sense that the team that respected the ball would come out on top – but Wigan did not get the memo.
The visitors found themselves under pressure in the early stages of the second half and could not keep the Giants out, largely through their own doing.
Liam Marshall failed to deal with Pryce's dab into the in-goal area and Kevin Naiqama picked his pocket to touch down under the posts.
Russell converted to make it 12-8 but the Warriors were never likely to go away.
They threatened when Willie Isa dropped the ball just short of the line after a juggling act before finding a way through from another kick.
Smith was the architect again, sending a high kick towards the left edge which was claimed by Wardle and finished by French.
A nerveless conversion by Smith put Wigan back ahead and they never looked like relinquishing their lead.
Huddersfield huffed and puffed but they lacked the tools to unlock the Warriors' defence.
The Giants had a lifeline when Wardle had a try ruled out for a forward pass seven minutes from time.
But Watson's men were unable to turn the tide as they sank to a second defeat in three home games, more than they suffered in the entire 2022 regular season.