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Warrington Wolves 24-26 Leeds Rhinos

Warrington (12) 24
Tries: Riley 2, J Monaghan, King
Goals:
Bridge 4
Leeds (6) 26
Tries: Hall 2, Ablett, Burrow
Goals: Sinfield 5

Leeds celebrate play-off victory
Leeds players celebrate their last-gasp play-off victory at the Halliwell Jones

Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield kicked a last-gasp penalty to lead his men to Old Trafford and wreck Warrington's bid for a first Grand Final appearance.

Referee Steve Ganson's late decision to award a penalty for offside proved crucial, Sinfield landing his fifth goal of the night to steal victory.

Ryan Hall (2), Carl Ablett and Rob Burrow ran in Leeds' four tries.

Chris Riley (2), Joel Monaghan and Matt King crossed for the Wolves in a classis match at the Halliwell Jones.

Warrington winger King thought he had won this memorable Super League play-off semi-final encounter nine minutes from the end but he was ruled to have been stopped just short of the line.

And having disallowed that, video referee Ian Smith four minutes later also ruled out what would have been a hat-trick try for Leeds winger Hall, after a slight knock-on from Burrow.

But, instead, as so many times before, Sinfield proved the hero as the Rhinos reached a fourth Grand Final in five years in the most dramatic fashion - against the team who had chosen to play them.

With the scores locked at 24-24 and the tie heading for extra time, Ganson blew up for offside against Richie Myler when he charged down an attempted drop from Sinfield and the Leeds captain kept his cool from 35 metres to secure victory.

It was the decisive act of a pulsating finale which reduced Warrington's players to tears as the Rhinos - who finished fifth in Super League XVI - become the first team from outside the top three to reach the Grand Final.

The outcome was tough on the Wolves, the outstanding team in Super League XVI, but full reward for the in-form Yorkshiremen, who maintained Sinfield's pledge to take on the free-scoring Wolves at their own game.

Former Leeds boss Tony Smith's side had been in rampant form against the Rhinos in their last three meetings, running in 20 tries in the process.

Chris Riley first try
Warrington winger Chris Riley crosses for the first of his two tries

Leeds fans have painful memories of last season's 30-6 Challenge Cup final hammering at Wembley. And the Rhinos had shipped seven tries to the Wire in both this season's two Super League encounters, losing 40-24 at the Halliwell Jones in March, before being routed 42-6 on home soil in May.

But, since putting up a much better performance at Wembley a month ago, in losing the Challenge Cup final for the second year running, to Wigan, Leeds have bounced back by winning four matches on the spin, running in 29 tries in the process.

And they struck the first blow at the Halliwell Jones when, from Danny McGuire's kick, fit-again Ablett raced in for a fourth minute try, Sinfield adding the extras.

But Wire were level by the 15th minute when Monaghan crossed over, then Riley, switched from the wing when full-back Brett Hodgson went off with ankle ligament damage after 32 minutes, went under the posts two minutes later, Bridge's two conversions earning a 12-6 lead.

It looked like Warrington might now be on their way, yet, within a minute of the restart, Leeds stunned the home side by levelling through their top scorer Hall, Sinfield's boot levelling things up again at 12-12.

Warrington were back with a six-point cushion when King scored the Wire's third try eight minutes after the break.

But Leeds turned it round on the hour, with two tries in three minutes, the first engineered by Burrow for Hall, the second scored by the little scrum-half himself.

Riley hit back with a second try, Bridge again improving, to leave it tied up at 24-24, with just 10 minutes left. But then came those three crucial late refereeing calls - and it was unfancied Leeds who ended up with the smiles on their faces when two of them went their way - and they now confidently awaiting the winners of Saturday evening's St Helens-Wigan derby.

POST-MATCH VERDICT

Warrington coach Tony Smith:

Leeds deserved to win - Smith

"I haven't watched the replay. I don't want to go into that.

"We will learn some lessons from that, bitter and hard lessons, but we needed to be better. We'll rue a few chances that we put down and we'll rue a few defensive lapses.

"I thought both teams were inviting the other to take a hold of the game and neither did. We weren't sharp enough to get away like we normally do. We did some good things to get out to those leads but we needed to be the next to score and we didn't manage to do that."

Leeds coach Brian McDermott:

McDermott praises Leeds' courage, bravery and heart

"It wasn't about the kick, it was how we came back and dealt with some adversity. Crucially, Kevin got the kick but people did a lot of good things out there. I thought Danny Buderus had one of his best games for a long long while."

"It's very satisfying. The challenge is to keep in control when things are going awry and we've done that. This team has got integrity, courage and honour and, even when things are not going in the right direction, we haven't once moaned.

"I'm that proud of the players and glad for them that, for all stick they've copped this year, we find ourselves in the Grand Final."

FRIDAY NIGHT'S TEAMS

Warrington: Hodgson; J Monaghan, King, Atkins, Riley; Briers, Myler; Morley, M Monaghan, Carvell, Anderson, Grix, Bridge.

Replacements: Westwood, Clarke, Cooper, Solomona.

Leeds: Webb; Jones-Bishop, Hardaker, Ablett, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Clarkson.

Replacements: Burrow, Bailey, Kirke, Hauraki.

Attendance: 12,074.

Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens).



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