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Page last updated at 21:01 GMT, Friday, 23 September 2011 22:01 UK

Huddersfield Giants 28-34 Leeds Rhinos

Huddersfield (12) 28
Tries: Grix 2, Fa'alogo 2, Ferguson
Goals:
Brough 4
Leeds (16) 34
Tries: Hardaker 3, Webb 2, Jones-Bishop
Goals: Sinfield 5

Zak Hardaker
Zak Hardaker flies in for the first of his three tries at the Galpharm

Zak Hardaker's hat-trick helped Leeds reach the last four of the Super League play-offs as they fought off a late Huddersfield fightback at the Galpharm.

Brent Webb (2) and Ben Jones-Bishop got the Rhinos' other tries in a game that looked to be wrapped up when Leeds led 34-12 with just 10 minutes left.

Two late tries from David Fa'alogo, and a second for Scott Grix, to add to Dale Ferguson's effort, set up a big finale.

But the Rhinos held on to keep alive their unlikely Grand Final dream.

And 19-year-old fourth-choice centre Hardaker may have done enough to keep his place, even if injured duo Carl Ablett and Kallum Watkins are fit to return from injury for next week's semi-final at St Helens or Warrington.

Although finishing a place below Huddersfield in the Super League table, Leeds were considered favourites to reach the last four, having won 31-24 at the Galpharm on the final day, revenge for an early season 38-6 home defeat by the Giants at Headingley in April.

Hat-trick hero Hardaker thrilled as Rhinos march on

This latest deserved triumph - Huddersfield's eighth defeat in 10 games - means that Brian McDermott's men have now piled up 171 points in four straight victories since losing to Wigan at Wembley in the Challenge Cup final on 27 August.

And, on this form, despite that late Leeds wobble, there is no guarantee that Warrington will want them as their Club Call opponents when they are asked to make their decision following the Wigan-Catalan Dragons game at the DW Stadium on Sunday evening.

Despite prop Ryan Bailey having won his appeal against a midweek one-match ban, Leeds coach McDermott again opted to start with him on the bench. But the Rhinos still made a spectacular start with two tries in the first 10 minutes.

Huddersfield are a pretty potent team with the ball, so when they had momentum I was nervous

Leeds coach Brian McDermott

Weller Hauraki fed Jones-Bishop at the right corner, before Webb and Danny McGuire carved a huge hole in the Huddersfield defence, allowing in teenager Hardaker.

Kevin Sinfield, who had missed with his first attempt from the touchline, nailed this one for a 10-0 lead.

And, although Leeds had one try rightly chalked off for a Webb forward pass, they stretched their lead just before the half hour when, from McGuire's bomb, Jermaine McGillvary blundered badly, allowing Hardaker to gallop in for his second try.

With Sinfield adding the extras, Huddersfield looked down and out, trailing 16-0, but the Giants showed great spirit to hit back.

Five minutes before the break, from Danny Brough's break, Grix dummied his way under the posts, Brough converting. Then, four minutes after the restart, the gap was down to just four points at 16-12 when fit-again Ferguson added another.

The home side then had a great chance to take the lead when Leroy Cudjoe broke clear down the left, but he chose to go inside, Brough spilling the crucial pass that, in any case, looked forward.

Within five minutes, Leeds looked to have wrapped it up by stunning the Giants with three quickfire tries, young Hardaker completing his first Rhinos hat-trick in between two from Webb, Sinfield taking his night's haul to five kicks out of six.

But Huddersfield responded with their late burst, Fa'alogo scoring twice either side of Grix, Brough kicking two of the goals, before Leeds' late nerves were finally settled.

POST-MATCH VERDICT

Huddersfield coach Nathan Brown:

"Towards the end of the year we've lost a bit of resolve and that probably showed in that crucial stage tonight. At 16-12, we put the pass down when we were going behind the posts and they put back-to-back tries on us.

"We just need to try to go from a top-four side to get that little bit better. We all need to look at a few things and need to try and advance a touch.

"We've been in the top four three years in a row. We haven't delivered a trophy but we're competing hard and I'm proud of all the players. A lot of our younger players did terrific tonight."

Leeds coach Brian McDermott:

"There were some nerves. Huddersfield can score tries. They are a pretty potent team with the ball, so when they had momentum I was nervous.

"They pretty much threw everything at us. It was more about Huddersfield's desire to get to a Grand Final.

"Zak Hardaker's grown in that position. He didn't look out of place straight away and gradually believed in that position a bit more each week. Tonight he showed just what he could do."

TEAMS

Huddersfield: Grix; McGillvary, Wardle, Cudjoe, Lawrence; Brown, Brough; Mason, Robinson, Griffin, Gilmour, Fa'alogo, Horne.

Replacements: Crabtree, Faiumu, Patrick, Ferguson.

Leeds: Webb; Jones-Bishop, Delaney, Hardaker, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Hauraki, Clarkson.

Replacements: Burrow, Bailey, Lauitiiti, Kirke.

Attendance: 7,872.

Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).



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see also
Leeds prop Bailey wins ban appeal
22 Sep 11 |  Leeds
Warrington 47-0 Huddersfield
16 Sep 11 |  Rugby League
Leeds 42-10 Hull
18 Sep 11 |  Rugby League
Huddersfield 24-31 Leeds
11 Sep 11 |  Rugby League
Leeds Rhinos 6-38 Huddersfield
15 Apr 11 |  Rugby League
Rugby League on the BBC
15 Oct 10 |  Rugby League


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