Saints' long Cup run falls to Huddersfield

St Helens 14 Huddersfield 24
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The Independent Online

The Giants survived a Saints siege to reach the Challenge Cup final and show that they now belong among the big boys. Good as they were in attack, particularly when Brett Hodgson and Kevin Brown were involved, it was Huddersfield's defence that took them to Wembley.

For long periods they were subjected to tremendous pressure from the holders, who were seeking to protect an unbeaten run in this competition that stretched back to the semi-finals in 2005, but Huddersfield refused to crack. "Ten weeks ago we wouldn't have won the game," said their coach, Nathan Brown. "That's how we've improved."

Huddersfield dominated the first 10 minutes and should have been more than a mere four points ahead. They could have scored as early as the second had Jamahl Lolesi not lost his footing, but there was no mistake when Luke Robinson opened up Saints' defence again and Brett Hodgson took a return pass from Leroy Cudjoe to score, the only disappointment being that Hodgson missed an easy goal.

Saints needed luck to get into the game and got it when Kyle Eastmond's charged-down kick gave them their first opportunity. Jon Wilkin's floated pass not only allowed Francis Meli to get outside Cudjoe but also to run around towards the sticks, leaving Eastmond a simple kick, which he also missed. Saints had decided against risking Sean Long, but the arrival of James Roby from the bench produced the spark that resulted in Leon Pryce being held up over the line.

It was the Giants who seized the initiative, however, Brown skipping past Paul Clough's missed tackle and finding Paul Whatuira in support to set up Stephen Wild. Huddersfield were good value for their 10-4 half-time lead but had to survive a barrage in time added on.

A knock-on by Andrew Dixon gave them their chance at the restart, Brown kicking straight from the scrum and Cudjoe winning the race. That was soon followed by another try when Robinson's kick for the corner was deflected into Brown's arms.

Saints came back with a try that hinted at their big-match brilliance. Lee Gilmour kicked and regathered and Wilkin sent Meli over for his second. Saints battered away for the next 20 minutes but could not break through. "We gave them plenty of opportunities, but our defence was superb," Hodgson said.

Fittingly, it was his flash of brilliance that clinched the trip to London on the last Saturday of this month. Side-stepping James Graham, he send a perfect kick raking through for Wild's second and the Giants were on their way. There was still time for Meli to complete his hat-trick, but, as Saints' coach Mick Potter admitted, his talented team had been second-best.

Huddersfield: B Hodgson; Cudjoe, Lolesi, Whatuira, D Hodgson; Brown, Robinson; Mason, Moore, Griffin, Wild, Fulton, Faiumu. Substitutes used: Crabtree, Lunt, Jackson, Kirmond.

St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Gidley, Dean, Meli; Pryce, Eastmond; Graham, Cunningham, Puletua, Wilkin, Flannery, Gilmour. Substitutes used: Hargreaves, Roby, Clough, Dixon.

Referee: R.Silverwood (Mirfield)

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