Huddersfield, the more enthusiastic and alert side throughout, upset the odds yesterday by reaching their first Challenge Cup final since 1962.
Two tries apiece from Chris Nero and Stuart Donlan, plus a 14-point haul from Michael De Vere, saw the Giants home as Leeds failed to live up to their individual and collective reputations. "We had to be at our best, and fortunately we were that,'' the proud Giants' coach, John Sharp, said. His most experienced cup campaigner, Robbie Paul, put it another way: "We were hungrier than they were. I'm trying to think who didn't have a great game, and I can't think of anyone.''
The Leeds coach Tony Smith had no complaints with the result, admitting that his side had put in their worst half of the season in the first 40 minutes, and had not improved upon it appreciably in the second.
Smith had decided not to risk Danny McGuire with his ankle injury, and his other selection decision was to bring back Lee Smith at full-back. He had a thoroughly uncomfortable time, although he escaped when he fumbled Chris Thorman's kick after only three minutes, Nero's touchdown being disallowed for offside.
Smith was not on his own, Leeds lacked any composure, and that was summed up by three handling errors from Jamie Peacock as they struggled to find their rhythm. Then, with their first serious attack, they took the lead, Rob Burrow moving the ball right, Chev Walker sucking in the defence and Donald scoring. Kevin Sinfield's kick went in off the post.
With a hint of obstruction about the try, it seemed that things might be going Leeds' way, but they were brought down to earth. Smith dropped another kick, and this time he and his team were punished. Paul Reilly ran at the line and Nero found the angle and the footwork to score. Three minutes later a disguised kick from Thorman opened up the Leeds flank again, with Donlan going past Scott Donald to force the ball down.
With two De Vere conversions, the Giants were six points up and would have been further ahead if Eorl Crabtree had not been held up over the line. Now it was Huddersfield's turn to make a damaging mistake, however, Paul kicking straight into touch, and Willie Poching pushing off a weak challenge from Thorman to score the equalising try.
The second half belonged strictly to the Giants from the moment the outstanding Brad Drew kicked through; Steve Snitch gathered and Nero scored his second. Drew and Thorman then combined for Donlan to complete his own double; and two De Vere penalties made the game safe long before he got a last-minute try for a scoreline that reflected Huddersfield's superiority.
Huddersfield: Reilly, Aspinwall, De Vere, Nero, Donlan, Thorman, Paul, Jackson, Drew, Gannon, Wild, P Smith, Jones. Substitutes used: Crabtree, Snitch, Mason, Raleigh.
Leeds: L Smith, Donald, Walker, Senior, Gibson, Sinfield, Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Diskin, Scruton, Lauitiiti, Peacock, Ellis. Substitutes used: Kirke, Millard, Poching, Bailey.
Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).Reuse content