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Super League: Wigan Warriors beat Leeds Rhinos to reach Grand Final
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Wigan will face Warrington in next week's Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford after beating Leeds 22-12 at the DW Stadium.
The Rhinos were bidding to reach an eighth Grand Final in 10 years but this was a game too far for the champions, who battled typically bravely but just did not have enough in the tank after last week's gruelling victory over St Helens.
By contrast Wigan had enjoyed a week off and ultimately that made the key difference as the game wore on.
Wigan had not beaten Leeds at home since February 2012 but dominated possession from the off as they aimed to avenge last season's defeat to the Rhinos on this ground at the corresponding stage last year.
Leeds actually created the first chance of the match as Ben Jones-Bishop just failed to get in at the corner after three minutes.
But that was the only time the champions threatened the Wigan line in the opening 40 minutes, although some heroic defending prevented Wigan from going further than 6-0 ahead at the break.
That try arrived after just six minutes as Carl Ablett's high shot gifted Wigan good field position and after slick passing, Pat Richards' inside ball put Iain Thornley in, with Richards converting from the touchline.
For the rest of the half Leeds were almost permanently in survival mode.
Zac Hardaker knocked on a high bomb inside his own 20 and then Danny McGuire was caught in possession on the sixth tackle, but both times Leeds survived.
Just before the half Richards broke 70 metres upfield but was caught by Ian Kirke and the attack ended with a poor kick from Blake Green into the in-goal area.
Wigan had now not conceded in more than 80 minutes of play-off rugby but four minutes into the second half Leeds hit back, almost out of nowhere.
Ablett shrugged off Harrison Hansen and burst through the middle, then delayed his pass perfectly for Joel Moon to score.
Sinfield converted for 6-6 and with Leeds' incredible record of play-off wins against the odds, alarm bells must have been ringing in the Wigan ranks.
But within five minutes Wigan were ahead again, after a poor pass from Mitch Aitchurch forced McGuire to knock on and five tackles later Liam Farrell was put over by Richards, who converted for 12-6.
Just before the hour Wigan had breathing space after Kallum Watkins knocked on in his own 20 and Matty Smith's kick through was knocked on by Ablett into the arms of Darrell Goulding for a simple try, with Richards adding the extras.
Leeds' final chance came moments later as Joel Moon raced for the corner, only for Harrison Hansen to dislodge the ball with a try-saving tackle.
Josh Charnley made the game safe for Wigan after Smith sidestepped through a desperately tired defence, before Liam Sutcliffe had the last word for Leeds with Wigan minds already turning to Old Trafford.
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First Utility Super League Table
|5||Hull K R||0||0|
|7||Salford Red Devils||0||0|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 5th February|
|20:00||Widnes vs Wigan|
|Friday 6th February|
|20:00||St Helens vs Catalans Dragons|
|Saturday 7th February|
|15:00||Warrington vs Salford|
|Sunday 8th February|
|15:00||Huddersfield vs Hull|
|15:00||Hull K R vs Leeds|
|15:30||Castleford vs Wakefield|
|Thursday 12th February|
|20:00||Salford vs St Helens|
|Friday 13th February|
|20:00||Hull vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Widnes|
|20:00||Wigan vs Huddersfield|
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