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Brian McDermott praises his Rhinos players after they shock Wigan Warriors
It's hard to find words to describe my players, McDermott said. They're just a sensational group of people. We stay tough and at this time of year you needs balls of steel to succeed. When everyone else loses their nerve, we manage to keep ours.
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Leeds coach Brian McDermott paid tribute to his team's ability to cope with pressure after they snatched a dramatic 13-12 victory over Wigan to reach a fifth Grand Final in six years.
The champions looked to have lost their grip on the trophy when the Warriors retrieved an 11-0 half-time deficit to lead 12-11 but skipper Kevin Sinfield had the final say when he kicked a penalty three minutes from the end.
"It's hard to find words to describe my players," McDermott said. "They're just a sensational group of people. We stay tough and at this time of year you needs balls of steel to succeed. When everyone else loses their nerve, we manage to keep ours.
"We had a fair amount of domination in the first half but Wigan were always going to come back and have their say. Thomas Leuluai put on a sensational play for that try."
Leeds were indebted to Sinfield's goalkicking as Wigan scored two tries to one - he put over a crucial drop goal in addition to three penalties - but McDermott refused to single out his captain.
"The team had to put him in that position to do it," he said. "It was about people making that many selfless efforts."McDermott conceded that the Warriors missed the creativity of Sam Tomkins but Wigan coach Shaun Wane maintained he had full confidence in replacement full-back, 20-year-old Jack Murphy.
Murphy produced a promising display on only his second Super League appearance but twice fumbled Sinfield's kicks to put his side under pressure at crucial times.
"Jack's a good player," said Wane. "He'll play again next year and the year after. Losing Sam Tomkins is not the reason we lost the game.
"It's a tough one. It's a really disappointed dressing room. We were not at our 100% best and we needed to be.
"If you play 40 minutes like we did in that first half against a team like Leeds it leaves you with too much to do.
"Our last plays weren't the best and I think that's where Leeds out-played us. They deserved to win. Kevin Sinfield is one of the best players there is and he burned us again.
"In the second half we showed what we can do but, at the end of the day, Leeds know how to win games.
"I knew when we were one point in front that, if we were not careful, it would come back and bite us."
It was Leeds who ended Wigan's hold on the Challenge Cup with a 39-28 semi-final victory in July and they ended the year with only the league leaders' shield to show for their efforts, much to the disappointment of Wane in his first season in charge.
"Over the year we've been outstanding but two semi-finals is no good to me," he said.
"We need to do better. I don't want to sound arrogant but our standards are very high here and we need to do better."
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First Utility Super League Table
|11||Hull K R||3||2|
|12||Salford Red Devils||3||2|
|First Utility Super League|
|Friday 6th March|
|20:00||Wakefield Wildcats vs St Helens|
|20:00||Huddersfield Giants vs Widnes Vikings|
|20:00||Castleford Tigers vs Wigan Warriors|
|Saturday 7th March|
|15:30||Catalans Dragons vs Salford Red Devils|
|Sunday 8th March|
|15:00||Warrington Wolves vs Hull K R|
|Thursday 12th March|
|20:00||Huddersfield Giants vs Castleford Tigers|
|Friday 13th March|
|20:00||Warrington vs Leeds|
|20:00||Widnes Vikings vs St Helens|
|20:00||Wigan vs Hull|
|Sunday 15th March|
|15:00||Hull K R vs Catalans Dragons|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 5th March|
|Hull FC 12 - 43 Leeds Rhinos|
|Sunday 1st March|
|Widnes Vikings 58 - 16 Wakefield Wildcats|
|Hull K R 22 - 20 Wigan Warriors|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Salford Red Devils 32 - 28 Hull FC|
|Catalans Dragons 38 - 18 Warrington Wolves|
|Friday 27th February|
|St Helens 21 - 14 Castleford Tigers|
|Thursday 26th February|
|Leeds Rhinos 28 - 24 Huddersfield Giants|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Wakefield 44 - 24 Hull K R|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Catalans Dragons 13 - 12 Castleford|
|Friday 13th February|
|Hull 6 - 7 Warrington|
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