A drop goal from Lee Gaskell in the last action of the match enabled Huddersfield Giants to pip Leeds Rhinos 14-13 and gain their first Betfred Super League win of the season in dramatic fashion at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Leeds stand-off Liam Sutcliffe missed three drop-goal attempts in the last 16 minutes of a tense second half as the injury-hit Rhinos went down to fifth consecutive defeat in all competitions.
The Giants lived dangerously after frittering away an 12-4 lead, built on two tries from skipper Aidan Sezer, but will feel they deserved the victory after having three tries disallowed by referee Liam Moore.
The Rhinos were without 10 players through injury and suspension, including Kyle Eastmond, their recent cross-code recruit who was ruled out with a hamstring problem, but still had chances to win the game.
Hooker Kruise Leeming proved to be a useful makeshift half-back and Sutcliffe was a constant threat on his return to the side.
The game started in persistent drizzle and was disrupted by a series of minor injuries which meant neither side was able to get into a rhythm.
Sezer was denied an early try because of offside and it was Leeds who struck first, second rower Bodene Thompson forcing his way over out wide after taking advantage of back-to-back penalties.
Sutcliffe was wide with the conversion attempt but Leeds hung on to their lead until 11 minutes before the break when concerted pressure in their 20-metre area told when Sezer dummied his way over for an equalising try.
The Australian half-back added the conversion to give his side the lead and extended it 50 seconds into the second half with his second try.
Full-back Gaskell turned defence into attack with a break from his own 20-metre area and Sezer had enough pace to finish off from the halfway line.
The captain was wide with the conversion, but made amends with a penalty four minutes later to stretch his side’s lead to 12-4.
The Giants thought they had scored again when replacement hooker Adam O’Brien went over from dummy half, but the try was disallowed for an obstruction by second rower Kenny Edwards.
Leeds had another let-off after 54 minutes when centre Ricky Leutele, on his home debut, broke through the first line of defence to get Luke Yates charging for the line, but the Australian prop lost control of the ball on the line.
The misses began to look costly when the Rhinos hit back through winger Ash Handley, who finished off a break by Sutcliffe and the try was converted by substitute Rhyse Martin, who levelled the scores five minutes later with a 40-metre penalty.
Sutcliffe was wide with two drop-goal attempts and Sezer also failed with a one-pointer, while Huddersfield had another try disallowed, this time Josh Jones denied by an offside call from Gaskell’s high kick.
The frenetic action continued when Sutcliffe’s third drop-goal attempt struck the crossbar and bounced over six minutes from the end to break the deadlock but Sezer quickly levelled with a snap one-pointer after Leutele had regained possession from the re-start.
Leeds had another chance to win it in normal time after O’Brien lost possession in his own 20-metre area, but Sutcliffe was wide with another drop-goal attempt.
The game seemed destined to enter extra-time when Leeds conceded a penalty for a ball steal and that presented an opportunity for Gaskell to land the winning point from 40 metres out.
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