A REMARKABLE match of play-offs intensity eventually ended in a draw at The Halliwell Jones Stadium tonight.
Wolves had been trailing 23-6 at the 57th minute mark but a stunning fightback that included two tries from Ben Harrison saw them go one point ahead with 13 minutes remaining.
Then it was a frantic finale, both sides giving their all to win the game that would keep alive their hopes of a top-place finish in the Super League ladder.
Rhys Evans’ spectacular dive into the corner almost sealed it for Wolves, but the Wales international lost the ball in the process under pressure of two defenders and landed badly – leaving a long delay while the winger received treatment.
Evans eventually left the field on a stretcher with six minutes remaining.
No further try-scoring chances came, although Wolves turned down a penalty shot from in front of the posts, but the drama was not over.
With 36 seconds left on the clock, Brough banged over his second drop goal that would clinch a draw.
A voluntary tackle by a Huddersfield player in the final second, not punished by referee Ben Thaler, completed an incident-packed 100 minutes of rugby league, taking into account added time for injuries and video referee decisions.
A Huddersfield points rally of 23 points in 22 minutes either side of half time had put the visitors in command.
Eighteen of those points had come in a nine minutes purple patch in the first period after Wolves had taken a 6-0 lead.
But misfortune and errors, not helped by Thaler’s leniency with lying on and offsides at the play-the-ball, then proved costly for Wolves.
Tony Smith’s men seemed to have had the better of the opening arm wrestle, including Richie Myler having a try ruled out for a knock-on.
They gave Giants’ forwards a grilling down the middle in the opening 20 minutes and it eventually paid dividends.
Matty Russell’s grubber kick forced a repeat set and on the last tackle Gareth O’Brien attacked the line from second receiver and managed to twist his way over.
He also landed the kick to make it 6-0 after 23 minutes.
Giants’ response was swift on the back of a penalty for interference.
Danny Brough’s grubber kick had the sting taken out of it by Michael Monaghan’s attempted pick-up but the ball fell kindly for Chris Bailey to get the touch ahead of Russell. Brough’s extras made it 6-6 after 27 minutes but that was just the prelude in a Giants points spree.
A Trent Waterhouse knock-on deep inside his own territory and then Chris Hill’s charge-down on his own 10-metre line paved the way for powerful Ukuma Tai’ai to surge over from short range off Shaun Lunt’s pass.
Brough’s improvement took Huddersfield to 12-6 and Wolves continued to live dangerously, O’Brien rescuing a clearance over the dead-ball line as McGillvary chased his own dab ahead.
And after the drop-out a deflection gave Giants another six tackles and again they cashed in, Lunt wrestling his way out of Paul Wood’s grasp to touch down close enough to the sticks to give Brough another simple conversion attempt.
From that third try in nine minutes Wolves needed a response and a penalty for obstruction piggy-backed them to the other end but James Laithwaite could not take Micky Higham’s delayed pass cleanly and a chance went begging.
Evans escorted McGillvary into touch after Huddersfield worked another opening down the right as the first half entered its closing stages.
A clever kick ahead for Joel Monaghan bounced unkindly and a last set for Huddersfield in the first period ended with Lunt’s break working a position for Brough to land a 30-metre drop goal with 30 seconds left on the clock.
The second half started disastrously, with Wolves being punished for a poor finish to a set.
A blind offload from Westwood eventually reached Myler who did well to get in a kick but the chase lacked urgency. Lunt slipped Myler’s challenge and broke clear before skilfully handing out of a tackle for speed merchant Jodie Broughton to race home from 80 metres.
Although Brough fluffed the goal shot Giants were 23-6 to the good three minutes into the second half.
Handling errors put Wolves under a period of pressure but a relieving penalty after interference on Westwood breathed new hope into a contest that had looked over.
From the first threatening Wolves attack of the second half, O’Brien’s smart little grubber was perfect for Ryan Atkins to pounce. O’Brien’s extras left Wolves 11 points adrift after 57 minutes.
The return of Michael Monaghan off the bench brought extra spark to Wolves and they soon got over again.
A last-tackle play through O’Brien’s hands ended with Ben Harrison swatting off two defenders and charging over in the 63rd minute. O’Brien’s conversion cut the gap to five points.
The Halliwell Jones Stadium crowd was suddenly alive and excited and the Wolves players responded to it, throwing everything at the Huddersfield line.
Harrison then battled his way over for a second try from a brutal first-receiver drive to the line in the 68th minute, the drama of the video referee equipment breaking down and stalling the decision for three minutes just adding to the tension.
All of a sudden, with O’Brien’s conversion, Wolves were back in front at 24-23 and all the momentum was with them.
Evans’ close call in the corner and the resulting eight-minute delay for his treatment took some sting out of the frantic finish, with both teams recovering some composure.
Brough’s late one-pointer ensured the spoils were shared at the end of a thrilling contest.
Wolves: Matty Russell; Gene Ormsby, Joel Monaghan, Ryan Atkins, Rhys Evans; Gareth O’Brien, Richie Myler; Chris Hill, Michael Monaghan, Ben Harrison, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Simon Grix. Subs: Micky Higham, Paul Wood, James Laithwaite, Anthony England.
Giants: Scott Grix; Jermaine McGillvary, Leroy Cudjoe, Aaron Murphy, Jodie Broughton; Danny Brough, Luke Robinson; Eorl Crabtree, Shaun Lunt, Antonio Kaufusi, Larne Patrick, Michael Lawrence, Chris Bailey. Subs: Craig Kopczak, David Faiumu, Ukuma Ta’ai, Jacob Fairbank.
Referee: Ben Thaler