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Leeds Rhinos return to Super League Grand Final after thrilling win at Wigan Warriors
Kevin Sinfield kicked a penalty four minutes from time to take champions Leeds back to Old Trafford with a 13-12 victory at Wigan.
The Rhinos were on the back foot throughout a frantic second half but held on before earning a late chance for their skipper.
And just as he had done in last year's semi-final at table-topping Warrington, Sinfield held his nerve to lead the Rhinos to a fifth Grand Final in six years.
Wigan were dealt a late blow when Sam Tomkins was ruled out just hours before kick-off with a knee injury, so 20-year-old Jack Murphy was called on to step in.
And it was a crucial error from the youngster which led to that late match-winning penalty.
He failed to deal with Sinfield's high bomb and with the Wigan defenders streaming back, a quick play-the-ball from Ryan Hall led almost inevitably to an offside.
Sinfield knocked over the two points and the table-toppers had once again been toppled by fifth-placed Leeds a game away from Old Trafford.
The Leeds defence was superb throughout, particularly in a first half they dominated.
They scored the only try after 13 minutes as Brett Finch's pass went to ground and Kallum Watkins scooped up the loose ball and raced 90 metres to score, with Sinfield adding the extras.
Wigan had just one chance in the opening 40 minutes, but Gareth Hock's pass was dropped by Pat Richards.
Leeds were content to thrive on pressure, swarming around Wigan's runners and taking points when they got inside the Wigan half.
Sinfield kicked two penalties - one for interference the other for offside - as well as a drop-goal which was to ultimately prove to be the difference between the sides.
Inevitably Wigan came out fast after the break and quickly got their reward after Sean O'Loughlin's break set up the chance for Tommy Leuluai to put Harrison Hansen in, with Richards converting.
Just past the hour mark Shaun Lunt was harshly ruled to have knocked on inside his own 20 and Brett Finch supplied the pass for Richards to slide in at the corner, with the winger edging Wigan ahead from the touchline.
Somehow Leeds survived frenzied Wigan pressure in the final quarter to stay in touch.
Their reward came in the final moments, although there was still time for Josh Charnley to break clear. Hall could easily have been penalised for holding his opposite number down as the Leeds defence streamed back, but the whistle stayed silent and Leeds are back in the Grand Final.
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Super League Table
|9||Hull K R||21||18|
|10||Salford Red Devils||21||17|
|13||Bradford Bulls *||21||2|
|Thursday 24th July|
|20:00||Hull vs Castleford|
|Friday 25th July|
|20:00||Salford vs Leeds|
|20:00||St Helens vs Widnes|
|Saturday 26th July|
|15:00||London Broncos vs Hull K R|
|Sunday 27th July|
|15:00||Bradford vs Wigan|
|15:00||Huddersfield vs Catalan Dragons|
|15:00||Warrington vs Wakefield|
|Thursday 31st July|
|20:00||Wigan vs Salford|
|Friday 1st August|
|19:00||Catalan Dragons vs Warrington|
|20:00||Hull vs St Helens|
|Sunday 20th July|
|Hull K R 18 - 38 Salford|
|Huddersfield 52 - 26 Bradford|
|Saturday 19th July|
|Catalan Dragons 40 - 6 Wakefield|
|London Broncos 16 - 58 St Helens|
|Friday 18th July|
|Wigan 56 - 10 Hull|
|Widnes 28 - 14 Warrington|
|Thursday 17th July|
|Leeds 24 - 24 Castleford|
|Sunday 13th July|
|Warrington 72 - 12 London Broncos|
|Saturday 12th July|
|Catalan Dragons 16 - 37 Wigan|
|Salford 35 - 22 Hull|
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