Sharp finds comfort in defeat

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The Independent Online

The Huddersfield coach, Jon Sharp, took heart from his under-strength side's battling performance despite their 38-6 defeat at the hands of Super League leaders Leeds on Friday night. The Giants were only 14-6 behind until the Leeds centre Chev Walker completed his hat-trick of tries on the hour.

The Rhinos then piled on the points, with three further converted tries in the last 12 minutes, but Sharp, who rested six of his regulars ahead of the Challenge Cup semi-final, remained buoyant.

"It was a shame the scoreline blew out in the last quarter because for 60 minutes it was a genuine competition," he said. "We had the most demanding Easter programme of anyone, but the boys who came in did tremendously well and I'm extremely proud of them."

If the Giants had more important matters on their mind, it did not show as they matched the leaders for an hour - and after conceding two tries in the first quarter. When the visitors trailed 10-0 after 13 minutes, the omens looked bad for them, but they were galvanised by the experience of Brandon Costin, who opened his side's account with a penalty before sending out a perfect cut-out pass which winger Marcus St Hilaire took to go past his former captain Francis Cummins.

It needed a last-ditch tackle by substitute Rob Burrow to deny St Hilaire a second try, while Kevin Sinfield came to the rescue after Huddersfield centre Julian Bailey intercepted in a dangerous position.

Walker had scored twice before the interval, his first a real gem and the second when taking a looping pass from Richard Mathers to edge Leeds 14-6 ahead. That said, the Giants had their moments in the second half before Leeds's superior class and pace began to tell.

Walker pounced for his hat-trick on 59 minutes after Willie Poching and Cummins had demonstrated clever footwork to keep the ball in play and, as the Giants tired, second-rower Dave Furner grabbed two late tries and stand-off Danny McGuire supported a break by Keith Senior to claim his 11th touchdown of the season.

"It was a tough game to prepare for," said the Leeds coach, Tony Smith. "We've played four games in 13 days, and to get all the points available is great, but we were out on our feet. It has been mentally and physically draining."