The Catalan Dragons might have had an undistinguished season, but they finished strongly enough to make the Super League play-offs and outlasted Huddersfield to reach the last four last night.
Tries in the last quarter from Dimitri Pelo and Olivier Elima decided a dour affair. If Leeds stick to their hint of how they will decide their next opponents, they will opt for the French club and they will not make the mistake of underestimating them.
"You wouldn't have thought it a month ago," said their coach, Kevin Walters. "If you'd have said the Dragons would be in a preliminary final, they would have laughed at you."
Nathan Brown, whose Huddersfield side were weakened by the early loss of Jamahl Lolesi with concussion, felt that they had still had an outstanding season. "Reaching the Challenge Cup final and finishing third – everyone should be proud of them," he said. "I don't think Leeds will pick Catalans and they can definitely beat Saints if they play them."
Three penalties in quick succession had put the Giants on the back foot for the first try. It was scored in the corner by Clint Greenshields, twisting his way over despite a two-man tackle as the Dragons made their possession tell.
Half-time was looming before an off-colour Huddersfield hit back, Luke Robinson spotting a gap between two defenders and beating two more tackles for an instinctive scrum-half's try, converted by Brett Hodgson.
After a fracas that briefly involved almost all the players just following the interval, it was the Catalans who kept their heads to regain the lead on the hour, Pelo kicking delicately past Leroy Cudjoe and getting the touch for a try which Thomas Bosc converted. Eight minutes later, a tiring Giants defence was opened up for Elima to go over and finish their roller-coaster season for them.
Huddersfield: B Hodgson; Cudjoe, Lolesi, Lawrence, D Hodgson; Whatuira, Robinson; Sculthorpe, Moore, Mason, Finnigan, Fulton, Wild. Substitutes used: Crabtree, Raleigh, Faiumu, Griffin.
Catalan Dragons: Greenshields; Duport, Raguin, Baile, Pelo; Mogg, Bosc; Ryles, McGuire, Guisset, Elima, Gossard, Bird. Substitutes used: Ferriol, Casty, Carlaw, Touxagas.
Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).