IN-FORM Huddersfield Giants made it five Super League victories in succession with a thrilling home victory over Catalans Dragons.
On the day the hosts offered free tickets, Giants officials could not have hoped for a more dramatic spectacle in their effort to entice new supporters to the John Smith’s Stadium.
After fighting their way back from an 18-0 deficit, the hosts eventually sealed victory in the 77th minute when scrum-half Oliver Russell landed a 15-metre penalty from in front of the posts.
It was the boot of birthday boy Josh Drinkwater, 26, which did all of the damage in the opening quarter as the Dragons set up three tries for his team-mates.
The first to profit was Brayden Wiliame, who followed up Drinkwater’s grubber to get the vital touch by the posts to pave the way for the in-form scrum-half to land the first of four first-half conversions.
Drinkwater then chipped to the left for Vincent Duport to finish wide out, before the half-back dabbed the ball to the right to allow David Mead to leap high and grab his side’s third converted score to make it 18-0 in as many minutes.
On the day the hosts offered free tickets, Giants officials could not have hoped for a more dramatic spectacle in their effort to entice new supporters
But on the Giants’ first serious raid inside their opponents’ territory, Russell sent out a perfectly-timed pass for Alex Mellor to stroll over for a 22nd-minute try which Russell converted with ease.
The try of the opening half came three minutes later and was full of French flair as Julian Bousquet and Tony Gigot combined close to the Huddersfield line to send Remi Casty over under the posts.
Drinkwater’s added the extras to restore Catalans’ 18-point lead but – by half-time – the advantage had been cut to 10 as the Giants finished with a flourish in front of their own fans.
Darnell McIntosh made the most of a sluggish defence to touch down in the corner eight minutes before the break and then Leroy Cudjoe kept the ball alive for Jermaine McGillvary to cross five minutes later.
It was all Huddersfield at the start of the second half, although it took them 16 minutes to finally break the French resistance as Adam O’Brien squirmed his way over from acting half-back close to the line in trademark fashion.
That lead, however, was finally cancelled out 10 minutes later when Drinkwater’s long pass was intercepted by McGillvary on his own 10-metre line to race the length of the field, with Russell this time on target to level up at 24-24 with just 16 minutes remaining.
Michael McIlorum’s drop-goal attempt to nudge Catalans back ahead three minutes later hit a post and bounced back into the arms of a relieved Giant, but there was no denying Gigot his one-pointer in the 74th minute.
Huddersfield responded well as they took play downfield and forced Sam Moa to concede a penalty for interference – which Russell calmly landed with three minutes to play.
The away side looked to have snatched it with 90 seconds left on the clock, but Benjamin Julien’s effort was ruled offside in what proved to be the most dramatic of finishes as the Giants just edged it.
Huddersfield Giants: Rankin, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Gaskell, McIntosh, Turner, Russell, Lawrence, Leeming, English, Mellor, Murphy, Hinchcliffe. Substitutes: Ikahihifo, Ferguson, Smith, O’Brien. Catalans Dragons: Gigot, Duport, Mead, Wiliame, Tierney, Bird, Drinkwater, Simon, McIlorum, Moa, Jullien, Garcia, Casty. Substitutes: Anderson, Bousquet, Edwards, Baitieri. Referee: Gareth Hewer (RFL).