CHALLENGE CUP SEMI-FINAL Leeds (8) 32 Tries: Hall 2, McGuire 2, Webb Goals: Sinfield 6
St Helens (18) 28 Tries: Wellens, Cunningham, Meli, Gidley, Graham Goals: Foster 4
By Steve Marshall
Danny McGuire's 201st career try won Leeds a thriller against St Helens and sent the Rhinos into their first Challenge Cup final since 2005.
Saints seemed to be in control when they led 18-8 at the break thanks to three quick tries from Paul Wellens, Keiron Cunningham and Francis Meli.
But after Matt Gidley and Ryan Hall had exchanged scores, Leeds regained the lead through Brent Webb and McGuire.
James Graham put Saints ahead again but McGuire dived over late on to win it.
St Helens has won the previous three Challenge Cup meetings between the sides but they were dealt a blow just before kick-off when key half-back Leon Pryce was ruled out with a neck injury, a problem that could keep him out for the rest of the season.
And they were left feeling more aggrieved after being on the receiving end of two marginal refereeing decisions in the opening 10 minutes.
They thought they had taken a third-minute lead when Meli raced in unchallenged after McGuire lost possession, but referee Phil Bentham went to his video referee Ian Smith who ruled Chris Flannery had knocked on in making the challenge on McGuire and disallowed the score.
McClennan delighted as Rhinos reach final
Then Bentham harshly ruled that Scott Moore had hit Kevin Sinfield late and awarded Leeds a penalty which Sinfield coolly slotted between the posts after picking himself up off the floor.
It was tense and nervy stuff as both sides saw their attacking thrusts cut short by uncharacteristic handling errors.
But Leeds finally made the breakthrough midway through the first half when Webb and Keith Senior combined brilliantly to send Ryan Hall in at the corner, with Sinfield adding the extras from the touchline.
Saints refused to buckle though, and turned the game on its head with three tries, all converted by Jamie Foster, in a little over 10 minutes just before the break.
First, Wellens took Moore's offload and turned his way through Luke Burgess' tackle to place the ball over the line.
Cunningham then burrowed his way over from close range before Meli intercepted a loose Greg Eastwood pass to saunter over under the posts.
Leeds got themselves back in the game within a minute of the restart after capitalising on a Jon Wilkin knock-on to send Hall in at the corner, Sinfield's conversion bringing them back to within four points.
Saints extended their advantage once again when Gidley forced his way over the line soon afterwards, but the game proved far from over as Leeds hit back with two tries in four minutes either side of the hour mark to get their noses back in front.
They pulled themselves back to within two points when a juggling McGuire held on to Senior's offload to race in under the posts for his 200th career try, Sinfield adding the simplest of conversions.
And as Saints struggled to regroup, Danny Buderus took advantage of the disarray in their defence to send Webb scampering over.
No excuses from St Helens' Potter
The momentum was now with Leeds but Saints refused to lie down and made the most of a penalty awarded for a high tackle by Ryan Bailey to regain the lead when James Graham took a suspiciously forward looking Cunningham pass to crash over.
But a stubborn Leeds finally won it when Jamie Peacock set up McGuire to cut through the Saints defence and dive over, with Sinfield's conversion completing the win.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.