football | Rugby League | Betfred Challenge Cup | Monday, May 30, 2022

It should be the perfect sports weekend for the town of Huddersfield. With their football and rugby league teams both having big dates at the finals in London, there was a chance to make a lasting impression that could help both clubs do bigger and better things.

But on both Saturday and Sunday, West Yorkshire natives trotted out of the capital’s stadiums feeling distraught and angry as their teams missed out on major honors by an extremely slim and contentious margin.

Huddersfield Giants, chasing their first major trophy in 60 years, led 14-12 against the mighty Wigan Warriors in the Betfred Challenge Cup final with just four minutes on the clock. Twenty-four hours later, Huddersfield Town had Nottingham Forest on the rack as they looked for a second-half equalizer in the Football Championship play-off final.

But Liam Marshall’s late Wigan attempt would deny the Giants after two separate incidents that may have at least sent the Warriors’ Morgan Smithies to the cellar of sins, and it was the same story on Sunday when the Terriers amid claims they should have, came up short had two clear penalties.

So close yet so far.

The Giants were 9/4 outsiders to win the Betfred Challenge Cup at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but attempts from Ricky Leutele, Chris McQueen and Jermaine McGillvary had put them on pole before the last quarter. That was despite two incidents early in the second half in which Wigan’s back wing Smithies escaped criticism for dangerous tackles.

First, he threw a swinging arm at Joe Greenwood, who left the Huddersfield forward prone, with referee James Child awarding the Giants a penalty but deciding no further action. Then, just before McGillvary gave the underdogs a 14-12 lead, Smithies caught Leutele with another sweeping challenge that left Giants coach Ian Watson perplexed and led to the Wigan man admitting his challenge “a bit stupid” himself .

“It wasn’t on purpose,” Smithies told reporters. “It was just a little bit stupid, it was a stupid game. I will learn my lesson and not do that again.”

That was no consolation for Watson, who felt Smithies should have at least seen a yellow card for the Leutele challenge. “I expected more if I’m honest, but he didn’t give it. We’ll have to see what the match review panel says, I thought it was a pivotal moment to be fair.”

With no card shown, Wigan rallied and von Harry Smith’s grubber Marshall pounced to lift the trophy for the Warriors, leaving Huddersfield halfway through what turned out to be a weekend from hell.

Huddersfield Giants' Jermaine McGillvary - swpix.com

Huddersfield Giants’ Jermaine McGillvary – swpix.com

For the following day at Wembley, the town’s football team were ousted 1-0 by Forest in the encounter who were billed the ‘£170m game’, condemning them to another season in the Second Division.

Carlos Corberan’s side fell behind just before half-time under Wembley Arch to a Levi Colwill own goal but twice thought they had found a way back into the game.

At first Jack Colback appeared to have tripped Town’s Harry Toffolo in the area, but referee Jon Moss waved off appeals and then, just over seven minutes from time, Lewis O’Brien and Max Lowe came together in an incident, at who could have been awarded a penalty but again Moss was uninterested.

“Talking to the players, they thought that if they didn’t suffer a foul they would have ended the action because both had a clear advantage to end the attacks. But those are decisions I can’t make, of course,” Mayor Corberan told reporters afterwards.

“We have the VAR and we have the referee and you have to accept what is happening on the pitch. In the end, the referee decided it wasn’t a foul and we can only accept the decisions.”

Huddersfield fans felt let down on both days. Their teams had put up a fight in consecutive finals, but in the end they ended up falling short. It could have been the greatest weekend in Huddersfield sporting history, but instead it was the ultimate story of what could have been.

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