Wigan's Grand Final dream was fatally crushed in the dying moments of a
superb semi-final as Leeds won 12-13.
Young fullback, Jack Murphy, in only his second first team start, was
unfortunate to spill a high kick in the slippery conditions three
minutes from time to put Leeds in position before a penalty conceded by
Liam Farrell was kicked by Kevin Sinfield to send Leeds to a second
straight Grand Final from fifth spot.
The Warriors had trailed 0-11 after a clinical first half from the
Rhinos where tactical kicking from Sinfield contributed to a huge
advantage in the territorial battle but came alive after half time to
lead 12-11 on the hour until the final moments.
Wigan looked to be pressing for the opening score of the game but Brett
Finch's pass just a few yards out didn't find its target and Kallum
Watkins raced clear to cover the length of the pitch and score.
The defending champions were able to set-up camp in the Wigan half of
the field and extended their lead with a Kevin Sinfield penalty when
Harrison Hansen was penalised 20 metres out for using his knee in the
The trend continued as Leeds coupled granite defence with clever
tactical kicks to keep Wigan pegged in their own half. Two minutes
later, it could've become much worse for the Warriors as on a rare
occasion the ball was in the Rhinos' half, Sinfield nailed a 40-20 kick
to put Leeds in a scoring position. They did come away with points, but
it was in the form of another two from Sinfield's boot, conceded as
Finch was far too keen in racing out of the line and was caught offside.
The Warriors did try to put some sweeping plays together, and determined
running from Murphy, who was left returning deep kicks for most of the
half, should not go unnoticed, but the set moves lacked the spark to set
the DW Stadium alight, illustrated by a move on 28 minutes which failed
to stick at the final pass to Pat Richards.
Sinfield directed most of his attacking kicks to Josh Charnley, which
the 2012 top try scorer dealt with with well but the efficient chase
each time ensured his attacking options were thwarted once the ball was
in hand. After another tough set on the half hour, tired-looking tackle
attempts failed to stop Zak Hardaker as he found useful yards for his
team to put Sinfield in a position to nudge over what proved to be a
vital drop-goal to take the score to 0-11.
The Warriors had to come alive in the second half and when Ben Jones
Bishop made a hash of the kick off to a cheer from the home crowd it
looked as if the start couldn't have gone better, but Richard Silverwood
ruled the ball had gone backwards and Wigan once again had to cope with
Sinfield drilling a kick into touch in Wigan territory.
The trend was set to shift though as Sean O'Loughlin made a break to
give Wigan vital yards before Tommy Leuluai flung a sharp ball to
Harrison Hansen to finally get Wigan's account up and running.
With new-found energy, strong runs from Epalahame Lauaki and stern
tackling boosted Wigan until Murphy couldn't take a high kick on his own
line to pile more pressure on the home side. As a result, Rob Burrow
managed to sneak in and appeared to have restored Leeds' advantage but
Silverwood referred it to the video referee which showed Burrow lost the
ball. The decision stirred Leeds into aggressive defence but Wigan
managed to find a way upfield before Gareth Hock was held-up and a
series of errors from Leeds put Wigan in positions to strike.
The chance was capitalised with 20 minutes to go when Richards slid over
in the corner and the Rhinos were almost left to rue electing to go for
goal with the two penalties early on when Richards nailed the touchline
This set-up a tense final quarter with numerous threats to both try
lines until the horribly tense moments which led to the demise of
Wigan's campaign when Sinfield sent the Rhinos into raptures.