Josh Drinkwater produced a perfect kicking display to spoil fellow Australian Simon Woolford’s first game as Huddersfield head coach.
The Catalans Dragons half-back kicked six goals from as many attempts as the French club moved to within 80 minutes of a second appearance at Wembley with a hard-fought 20-6 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final triumph.
It was a turgid, stop-start affair played in front of a crowd of just 2,151 at the John Smith’s Stadium but Catalans coach Steve McNamara will not mind that as he watched his side continue their revival with a fifth win in their last six games.
A try from Huddersfield captain Leroy Cudjoe on his 250th career appearance – his first for nine months following major knee surgery – briefly suggested the Giants might extend their own winning run to five matches but the disappointing performance highlights the size of the task still facing Woolford.
The Catalans, who gave a debut to New Zealand back-row forward Kenny Edwards, their new signing from Parramatta, relied on their aggressive defence to grind out a 4-0 interval lead and strengthened their grip in the second half.
The only scores up to half-time came at the beginning and end of the first half from the boot of Drinkwater with two penalty goals.
Huddersfield winger Darnell McIntosh produced the only clean break of the first half and Catalans winger Lewis Tierney was perhaps fortunate to avoid a spell in the sin bin for holding him down after getting back to make the tackle.
The Giants’ veteran half-back Danny Brough was not so fortunate after slow-motion replays unveiled a dangerous-looking tackle on Edwards, six minutes after he went on for his debut, which earned the former Scotland captain a yellow card.
However, the Yorkshire side defended comfortably enough during Brough’s absence to keep their line intact.
The scrappy nature of the game was not helped by both sides having to reshuffle their line-ups after the Dragons’ former Huddersfield winger Jodie Broughton and Giants centre Jake Mamo were both withdrawn through injury in the first half.
The dour game at least sprung to life at the start of the second half.
Cudjoe took advantage of hooker Kruise Leeming’s crabbing run across the face of the Catalans defence to force his way over out wide for the first try of the game and Brough’s touchline conversion gave Huddersfield the lead.
But it lasted only three minutes as the home side turned over possession inside their own half and centre David Mead pounced for a try after McIntosh fumbled Tony Gigot’s high kick.
Drinkwater added the conversion and kicked two more penalties to extend his side’s lead to 14-6 before veteran stand-off Greg Bird went through a gap in the Huddersfield defence for the Dragons’ second try on 67 minutes.
Brough was denied a try for obstruction and, although the visitors finished with 12 men with Ben Garcia sin-binned for foul play, they were worthy winners as they booked their place in the Macron Stadium semi-finals on August 5.