Huddersfield (10) 24 Tries: B Hodgson, Cudjoe, Wild 2, Brown Goals: Hodgson 2
By Phil Harlow
Brown (left) was in magnificent form for the Giants
Huddersfield produced a defensive masterclass at the Halliwell Jones to reach the Challenge Cup final with a pulsating win over holders St Helens.
Saints' last defeat in the competition was back in the 2005 semi-final, but the Giants tackled them to a standstill with a heroic display of defiance.
Brett Hodgson and Stephen Wild tries gave Huddersfield the lead before Leroy Cudjoe and Kevin Brown made it 18-4.
Francis Meli's try gave Saints hope but Wild's second sealed a famous win.
Much of the pre-match talk centred on St Helens' vibrant attack coming up against Huddersfield's rock-solid defence, as the two teams lead the Super League statistics in their supposed specialities.
For most of the match, that prediction proved accurate - but it was Huddersfield who started in fine attacking form as Luke Robinson ghosted through the line before passing to Liam Fulton only for his pass to Jamahl Lolesi to go behind the target.
Reaction - Huddersfield reach Challenge Cup final
It took only a few minutes for the Giants to put that right though, as Robinson and Fulton again linked up on the right, releasing Cudjoe to draw the last man and put Hodgson in for the score.
Huddersfield's outstanding defence saved them time and time again, as St Helens began to turn the screw but it finally cracked as Meli - on the last tackle - outmuscled Cudjoe out wide to score.
The electric pace and dazzling running of Kyle Eastmond continued to ask questions of the Giants' tacklers, while the introduction of James Roby off the bench also caused mayhem from dummy-half.
A stream of handling mistakes from Huddersfield - 10 first-half errors to Saints' one - made life difficult for the underdogs, but more excellent last-ditch defence saw Leon Pryce held up over the tryline.
A borderline trip by Wild on Roby went unnoticed by the referee, and moments later the Giants second-rower was gliding over at the other end for a momentum-changing try.
Paul Clough slid off a tackle on Brown deep in Huddersfield's half, and the stand-off raced off the pitch before passing to Paul Whaturia, who then gave the scoring pass to Wild.
Still the mistakes came from Huddersfield, and it needed some breathtaking backs-to-the-wall defence from the Giants - including holding Eastmond up over the line - to hold out a rampant Saints until the break.
Huddersfield made the perfect start to the second half as Saints replacement Andrew Dixon knocked on from the kick-off.
From the resulting scrum, Brown kicked behind the defence on the first with Cudjoe catching Saints napping and putting his side 14-4 up.
And things quickly got even better as a steepling Brown up-and-under was spilled under pressure by Adey Gardner, allowing the onrushing stand-off to collect the loose ball and dart over for a commanding 18-4 lead.
But St Helens are not top of the try-scoring charts for nothing and it was an absolute classic, finished off by Meli, which brought them back in the match.
Running from inside his own half, Lee Gilmour grubbered ahead and skilfully collected before passing to Jon Wilkin, who gave the scoring pass to Meli.
Talismanic Saints captain Keiron Cunningham bounded off the bench and made a huge impact, tackling and carrying like a man possessed but the Giants refused to give an inch in defence.
Meli's hat-trick was not enough for St Helens
Mistakes still hampered the Giants' hopes of a first Wembley visit since 1962, but their defence continued to bale them out of trouble.
Eastmond went close on a couple of occasions, but St Helens would have loved to have had the experience of Sean Long on the field rather than watching from the bench as he nursed a broken jaw.
Saints threw everything they could into a frenetic final 15 minutes, but a moment of real class by Hodgson clinched it as he danced around James Graham and then raced upfield before chipping ahead for Wild to score.
There was still time for Meli to complete his hat-trick as the champions went out fighting, but the glory belonged to Huddersfield and their fans can look forward to a Wembley meeting with Warrington on 29 August.
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