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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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First Utility Super League Table
|4||Salford Red Devils||7||7|
|11||Hull K R||6||4|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 26th March|
|20:00||Salford Red Devils vs Widnes Vikings|
|Friday 27th March|
|20:00||Castleford Tigers vs Hull FC|
|20:00||Wigan Warriors vs Wakefield Wildcats|
|20:00||Hull K R vs St Helens|
|20:00||Warrington Wolves vs Huddersfield Giants|
|Saturday 28th March|
|17:00||Catalans Dragons vs Leeds Rhinos|
|Thursday 2nd April|
|20:00||Hull vs Hull K R|
|20:00||Wakefield vs Catalans Dragons|
|20:00||Widnes vs Warrington|
|Friday 3rd April|
|12:45||Castleford vs Leeds|
|First Utility Super League|
|Sunday 22nd March|
|Widnes Vikings 20 - 16 Hull K R|
|Wakefield Wildcats 14 - 44 Huddersfield Giants|
|Friday 20th March|
|Leeds Rhinos 26 - 14 Wigan Warriors|
|Castleford Tigers 30 - 16 Salford Red Devils|
|Hull FC 33 - 22 Catalans Dragons|
|Thursday 19th March|
|St Helens 32 - 24 Warrington Wolves|
|Sunday 15th March|
|Hull K R 50 - 20 Catalans Dragons|
|Salford Red Devils 24 - 18 Wakefield Wildcats|
|Friday 13th March|
|Widnes Vikings 20 - 30 St Helens|
|Wigan Warriors 13 - 12 Hull FC|
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