Challenge Cup: Leeds Rhinos beat Warrington Wolves in semi-finals
Last Updated: 09/08/14 5:08pm
Leeds Rhinos will return to Wembley later this month after beating Warrington Wolves 24-16 in the Challenge Cup semi-finals.
The Rhinos have been the dominant force of the Super League era with six title wins, but in the same time have lost half-a-dozen cup finals - two of them against the Wolves - dating back to their last crown in 1999.
They will now hope it is a case of seventh time lucky with this win booking an August 23 Wembley date against the victors of Sunday's clash between Castleford and Widnes.
A thoroughly dominant opening half laid the platform for Leeds - they had virtually all the ball and led 14-0 at the break.
It was all the more impressive considering Leeds' poor form in the build-up, having won two out of five and lost to relegated Bradford a week ago.
But they started afresh here and never trailed after Kevin Sinfield kicked a third-minute penalty, taking some vital juice out of the Warrington tank with a series of drop-outs and repeat sets.
Their possession did not yield immediate reward but they remained patient and in the 26th minute something gave as Ryan Hall produced a brilliant one-handed finish by the corner flag, touching down in the smallest of gaps while fending off Joel Monaghan with his right hand.
It was Leeds' first try in a cup semi-final against Warrington since 1910 and the finish was of such quality that it was perhaps worth the wait, with Sinfield nailing a touchline goal to top the lead up to 8-0.
It served as the cue for Warrington to get moving in attack and it took some strong cover work from Zak Hardaker to get back and put a rampaging Chris Bridge on the floor.
But it proved to be an isolated first-half threat from the Wolves and four minutes before the break they were six points further adrift. Hardaker got Leeds moving with a fine run in broken play, allowing Danny McGuire to produce a brilliant pass which left Hall with the easiest of sprints to the line. Sinfield again added the goal.
If Warrington were to get back into the game they needed to do it quickly and when Rhys Evans broke clear down the left two minutes after the restart they had the chance. He delayed his inside ball to Ryan Atkins, though, and Carl Ablett got back to make a fine tackle.
But that just held them back momentarily. A floated kick from Richie Myler found the outstretched hands of Monaghan who gladly put Bridge over. The conversion was missed and Leeds led by 10 points.
It was the first pressure Leeds had faced and they looked ill at ease, with Hall shelling a kick and inviting more Wire attacks, but after seeing it off the Rhinos got a third try. Smart breaks from Rob Burrow and Sinfield teed them up and McGuire provided the killer ball to Joel Moon who dotted down.
Warrington responded gamely and it took a stunning three-man defensive effort to stop Chris Hill from rumbling over, before Stefan Ratchford did make it across the line, picking up a brilliant Ben Westwood offload from the turf. Bridge added the extras and it was 18-10 with a quarter left.
But Tony Smith's men were unable to follow that up with the further scores they needed and had to try to force their hand, which only ended in Myler's pass ending up in the hands of Tom Briscoe, who raced 60 metres to send his side to Wembley.
Westwood refused to give up the ghost and got a third Warrington try with five minutes left, but his side were well beaten by that stage.