Huddersfield Giants found themselves in that position yesterday when even their coach Simon Woolford admitted London Broncos – bottom of Super League – should not have had a ‘match-winning try’ disallowed on the final hooter.
Having seen Huddersfield come back three times, the visitors thought they had snatched victory once and for all when Alex Walker, the Scotland full-back, latched onto a kick that landed between the posts in the final seconds.
However, referee Marcus Griffiths, to their consternation, waved away their frantic appeals and Giants – who had been poor for much of the game – survived.
London coach Danny Ward saw his side lose a sixth successive match, but said his players had “driven 200 miles to be left with their pants down” by the decision, having claimed even Huddersfield’s players had said it was a legitimate try.
It was hard not to feel for them, but Woolford, for all his dismay at his own side’s bitty display, added a caveat.
“He probably did (score) but so did Kruise Leeming midway through the second half for us,” said the Australian, whose side bounced back from a 38-18 Good Friday defeat at Leeds Rhinos to edge up to eighth.
“It was clear Kruise got the ball down. If they did (score), maybe it was a square up from the referee.
“It was a tough call, too, when Jordan Turner got knocked out from a shoulder to the jaw.
“It’s a dropped ball for us and an on report for them. But he’s had to be stretchered off. There’s a couple that went our way and a couple against us. We were lucky winners in the end, though.
“We won. It’s about the only positive to come out of it.”
Play had to be held up for some time as Turner, who – one of Giants’ better players along with two-try Jermaine McGillvary, Joe Wardle and the powerful prop Ukuma Ta’ai – was treated on the field.
Soon after the centre had been stretchered off, Morgan Smithies’s 72nd-minute drop goal put London ahead for the third time after erratic Huddersfield had wasted a couple of golden opportunities themselves.
Oliver Russell had been set for a drop goal attempt on the last tackle, but instead saw Leeming feed Suaia Matagi, who was then held up.
However, England Knights hooker Leeming does not lack confidence, as demonstrated when he opted to run again on the last tackle with just three minutes to go and, this time, found McGillvary with a lovely long pass to send the winger in.
Russell maintained his 100 per conversion rate with another impressive touchline kick.
But Woolford, whose side head to Warrington Wolves on Sunday, was not happy. They had trailed 30-0 at half-time against Leeds on Friday and were 8-0 behind in as many minutes here.
Jay Pitts swatted off some woeful defence to score, Kieran Dixon converting and then adding a penalty. However, they got their act together and created back-to-back tries to move 12-8 ahead in the 26th minute.
First, Alex Mellor – one of four changes in the Giants’ 17 – got over after slick hands from Ta’ai and Russell.
Then, in the restart set, a wonderful shift to the left saw winger Innes Senior race clear from his own half with Scott Grix – back from a broken hand – supporting on his inside to score.
Russell improved both and his side started the second period strongly, too, only to see Grix throw an intercept pass that saw London winger Rhys Williams scorch in from 80m.
Dixon converted, but the ex-Hull KR winger then swiftly erred himself, spilling a high kick to gift position for Huddersfield to regain the lead once more.
McGillvary did the damage as they moved it wide right direct from the 20m scrum in the 51st minute, Russell adding the extras from the touchline.
Still the visitors would not lie down and, after McGillvary failed to mop up a loose London pass, Ryan Morgan benefited from more lax defence to get over in the 68th minute. Dixon, however, could not convert this time so the game was left level 18-18 heading into those final minutes.
Huddersfield Giants: Grix; McGillvary, Turner, Jake Wardle, I Senior; Russell, Frawley; Clough, O’Brien, Matagi, Joe Wardle, Mellor, Lawrence. Substitutes: Leeming, Murphy, English, Ta’ai.
London Broncos: Walker; Dixon, Morgan, Fleming, Williams; Smith, Cunningham; Butler, Pelissier, Battye, Piits, Gee, Yates. Substitutes: Ioane, Richards, Adebiyi, Davies.
Referee: M Griffiths (Leigh)