A double from hometown boy James Bentley helped Leeds reach their first Grand Final since 2017 as they won 20-8 at Wigan.
It caps off remarkable turnaround for the Rhinos, who were in the bottom four when head coach Rohan Smith arrived earlier this season.
It was a dominant second half display from Leeds after they went into the changing rooms 4-2 down at the break. Wigan were dealt a blow when John Bateman was sent off, with the Rhinos scoring second half tries through Jarrod O’Connor and Bentley (2).
You could tell it was a semi-final within the first minute of the game. Both sides came up with mistakes in their first sets of the match.
Wigan broke the deadlock in the 10th minute when the ball went wide to winger Liam Marshall who produced an acrobatic finish in the corner. Harry Smith couldn’t convert, but the Warriors were 4-0 up.
There was plenty of spice to the game, with Bentley and Wigan’s Morgan Smithies picking each other out in the middle stages of the first half.
Leeds posted their first points in the 37th minute thanks to a Zak Hardaker penalty goal. Wigan prop Patrick Mago was penalised for a high tackle on Blake Austin.
HT: Warriors 4-2 Rhinos
It was a fantastic start to the second half from the visitors. O’Connor darted over from dummy half in the 45th minute.
Ireland international Bentley scored his first in front of the travelling Leeds contingent just three minutes later. Hardaker’s conversion put his side in a 14-4 lead.
Things went from bad to worse for Wigan when Bateman was red carded for dangerous contact on Leeds half-back Aidan Sezer, who didn’t return to the field.
Marshall thought he had pulled one back for the hosts on the hour. However, it was ruled out by the video referee for a knock on.
Bentley put the Rhinos in a healthy position in the 65th minute. He went through a gap in a scattered Wigan defence. They were 20-4 ahead after Hardaker’s four goal of the night.
Sam Powell, who was playing his 250th game for Wigan, went over with three minutes left but it would only prove to be a consolation try as Leeds finished 20-8 winners.
The Rhinos will face the winner of Saturday’s semi-final between St Helens and Salford in the Grand Final at Old Trafford next Saturday.
FT: Wigan Warriors 8-20 Leeds Rhinos
Wigan: Field; French, Pearce-Paul, Bibby, Marshall; Smith, Leuluai; Singleton, Powell, Byrne, Isa, Bateman, Smithies. Subs: Mamo, Ellis, Havard, Cooper.
Tries: Marshall, Powell Goals:
Leeds: Myler; Briscoe, Hardaker, Sutcliffe, Tindall; Austin, Sezer; Oledzki, O’Connor, Prior, Bentley, Tetevano, Smith. Subs: Leeming, Donaldson, Walters, Thompson.
Tries: O’Connor, Bentley (2) Goals: Hardaker 4
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