It may well be a contender for the lowest-quality game of 2018 – but try telling that to Catalans Dragons and seeing if they care.
Steve McNamara’s side are one win away from the most unlikely of trips to the Challenge Cup final, after edging past Huddersfield 20-6 in a scrappy, stop-start affair at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The quality on show was best epitomised by the fact that, at half-time, neither side had yet managed to score a try, with Catalans leading 4-0 courtesy of two penalties from the boot of Josh Drinkwater.
Les Dracs could not even take advantage of a 10-minute period in which Danny Brough was in the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle on debutant Kenny Edwards – and while both sides’ attack sharpened up after the break, it was the Dragons who progressed to the semi-final double-header at Bolton on August 5th.
For Huddersfield, whose first game under the stewardship of Simon Woolford ended in defeat, this will be a bitter pill to swallow. Both sides were undoubtedly there for the taking but a laboured performance from the hosts was to cost them dear – they must now turn their focus to ensuring a top-eight finish and avoiding the Qualifiers.
After Drinkwater’s penalties made it 4-0 at half-time, the Giants started the second half much the stronger of the two sides, with Leroy Cudjoe marking his return from a nine-month injury with a well-taken finish in the corner. Danny Brough’s conversion made it 6-4 – but soon after, Catalans went back ahead courtesy of David Mead’s try: they would not fall behind again.
Another brace of penalties from Drinkwater opened up a two-score lead, which was then enhanced further when Greg Bird capitalised on a wonderful pass from Michael McIlorum to seal Huddersfield’s fate.
Catalans would finish with 12 men when Ben Garcia was sent to the bin for an illegal tackle: but by then, Huddersfield’s race had been run.