Huddersfield, without eight players due to injury, were four minutes away from a famous win, but had to settle for a 22-22 draw after Leeds Rhinos’ makeshift, but in-form, centre Ash Handley crossed for his second try and Kallum Watkins added the conversion.
For both teams it was a point lost. Huddersfield, whose head coach Rick Stone had been sacked three days earlier, led 12-0 inside the opening quarter and went six ahead with eight minutes to go.
Leeds, without seven of their senior squad, rallied to go two points in front soon after half-time and should have got the job done from there, but allowed the hosts to get back into the contest.
Rhinos scored four tries to three and it was the second successive game they have failed to win after touching down more times than the opposition.
A draw was probably a fair result, but, had they held on, Huddersfield would have deserved it for their spirit, the way they took their limited chances and a hard-working defensive effort.
Leeds could take heart from twice hitting back from a losing position, but rarely clicked into gear and turned over possession too cheaply in the second half.
Huddersfield climbed a place to 10th in the Betfred Super League table and will be confident, if they add some polish to yesterday’s performance, of winning at bottom club Catalans Dragons on Monday.
They got off to a flier, opening the scoring after three minutes. Leeds full-back Jack Walker took Danny Brough’s high kick, but lost the ball in contact and Jared Simpson – the right-wing recently recalled from loan at Dewsbury Rams – scored from Jordan Turner’s pass on the free play. Brough landed a touchline conversion.
Leeds could have been level within six minutes. Brad Singleton, Richie Myler and Joel Moon worked the ball to Handley and he made a strong run and turned the ball inside to Myler, but the scrum-half dropped the pass a few metres out.
On 17 minutes Handley was penalised for tackling Darnell McIntosh in the air after the full-back collected Myler’s kick. Giants had got no go-forward since their try, but made their second opportunity count.
The move seemed to have broken down, but McIntosh retrieved a loose pass and supplied Turner and he again provided the final ball for Simpson. Brough landed another touchline goal, but Rhinos responded quickly.
Myler tackled Louis Senior, Giants’ 18-year-old winger making his Super League debut, into touch a few metres out.
In the set from the scrum Watkins ran a nice line on to Myler’s pass and the captain also added the extras to half the deficit. Rather than demoralising Giants, the Leeds try seemed to give them a second wind and they had the better of things until the break, though they only managed two more points.
They came from a Brough penalty goal after a high tackle by Mikolaj Oledzki on Simpson. A couple of minutes before the interval.
The champions, briefly, stepped up their game after half-time. Ryan Hall crossed for an unconverted try at the corner from Handley’s pass and then the centre dummied and stepped through after being set up by Myler.
Watkins’ goal gave Leeds a two-point advantage, but they were caught napping when Adam O’Brien squeezed over from acting-half close to the line.
Brough converted and added a penalty and at that stage Giants were on track for only their third win of the season, but Handley struck again to spare Leeds’ blushes, slicing through for his sixth try in three games from a pass by Joel Moon.
After the conversion both Giants’ Jordan Rankin and Myler were of-target with hurried drop goal attempts as the honours ended even.
Huddersfield Giants: McIntosh, Simpson, Turner, Murphy, Senior, Rankin, Brough, Ikahihifo, O’Brien, Clough, Roberts, Lawrence, Hinchcliffe. Subs Ta’ai, D Smith, Dickinson, Hewitt.
Leeds Rhinos: Walker, Briscoe, Watkins, Handley, Hall, Moon, Myler, Mullally, Dwyer, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney. Subs Ferres, C Smith, Oledzki, Golding.
Referee: J Smith (Warrington).