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Challenge Cup: Huddersfield Giants beat Leeds Rhinos
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Huddersfield ensured that Leeds will not be going to Wembley for a fourth straight year after beating the Rhinos 24-8 in the Challenge Cup fifth round.
The Giants produced a superb defensive performance to deny the Super League champions, both before and particularly after the sending-off of Joe Wardle just past the hour mark.
Huddersfield led 18-4 at the break and then withstood waves of Leeds pressure to confirm their status as genuine contenders on two fronts this season.
The hosts edged ahead through a fifth-minute Danny Brough penalty after a Danny McGuire high shot on Eorl Crabtree and grabbed the first try moments later.
Zak Hardaker knocked on Brough's deep clearance kick on his own 20-metre line and four tackles later Shaun Lunt went over unchallenged from dummy half. Brough added the extras for an 8-0 lead.
But on 11 minutes Leeds got back into the contest after Hardaker's try-saving tackle on Crabtree set up a length-of-the-pitch move, before Rob Burrow's pass put Kallum Watkins in at the corner.
Kevin Sinfield missed the conversion and the free-flow of the game continued as after a superb long-range break, halted temporarily when Ryan Hall brought down Jermaine McGillvary, Huddersfield kept their composure and the ball was calmly shipped out wide for Wardle to slide in and score.
Now it was time for the Giants to show their defensive steel, as they survived six tackles in front of their posts.
Leeds looked set to score but Leroy Cudjoe intercepted and raced 95 metres to score in the corner, slipping out of Hardaker's tackle and then outpacing Ryan Hall to touch down.
McGuire and Jamie Cording both had tries ruled out for failing to ground the ball - Cording's the closer call - before the break, but following the re-start Leeds looked certain to break through.
They forced a drop-out and had two successive penalties but Huddersfield somehow held out on their line.
Relief came when Ryan Bailey infringed and Brough kicked a penalty, before Wardle's moment of madness, as he threw at least four punches after a contretemps with Carl Ablett.
Six minutes later Leeds took advantage of the overlap as Ablett put Watkins over in the corner and Huddersfield looked set to crumble.
But they held out for 13 minutes of intense pressure and even had the final word as Cudjoe again intercepted - this time just five metres from the Leeds line - and trotted in for a try as time expired.
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|Saturday 31st January|
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