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Friday 27th September 2013, 20:00 - Round:Play Offs
|Iain Thornley, Liam Farrell, Darrell Goulding, Josh Charnley,||T||Joel Moon, Liam Sutcliffe,|
Pat Richards 3,
Kevin Sinfield 2,
Attendance: 14,600 Official: P Bentham Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
Wigan Warriors are on course to do the double after overpowering reigning Super League champions Leeds Rhinos in a breathless semi-final.
The Challenge Cup winners ran in three second-half tries to run out 22-12 winners and will meet Warrington Wolves in next Saturday’s Grand Final at Old Trafford.
It will be the first time the two North-West giants have met in a major final since Wigan beat Warrington in the 1990 Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
It was a fitting way for Australian winger Pat Richards and England internationals Sam Tomkins and Lee Mossop to mark their final appearances at the DW Stadium as they prepare for their moves to the NRL.
Leeds, champions in each of the last two years, drew level at 6-6 thanks to Joel Moon’s terrific try four minutes into the second half but this looked a game too far for them and they finished a well-beaten side.
The action was fast and furious, brutal and unrelenting, and both sides thoroughly deserved the standing ovation that accompanied their retreat to the dressing rooms at half-time.
The only try of the first half came after five minutes when Tomkins released Richards and he found centre Iain Thornley with an inside pass.
Richards demonstrated the unerring accuracy that has characterised his eight-year stint with the Warriors by landing the angled conversion to make it 6-0 and somehow that is how the score remained for the rest of the half.
Before his try, Thornley had been responsible for a last-ditch tackle that forced Leeds winger Ben Jones-Bishop to lose control of the ball when he looked a certain scorer.
It was the first of a series of defensive heroics, the highlight of which was provided by Leeds prop Ian Kirke five minutes before half-time when he somehow got back to deny Richards after the Wigan man had broken clear from his own half.
Full-back Zak Hardaker’s tackle on Wigan replacement Jack Hughes minutes earlier paled by comparison but was equally important as the champions defied logic to stay in the game.
There were times in the first half when many of the Rhinos players looked out on their feet but they came out refreshed after the break and quickly drew level.
A break from halfway by substitute forward Mitch Achurch came to nothing but when the more astute Carl Ablett wriggled free from the tackles of Harrison Hansen and Matty Smith to charge into open space, he superbly took play on before timing his pass perfectly for Moon to finish off.
Kevin Sinfield’s goal made it 6-6 but Wigan struck a purple patch to score twice in five minutes and take a stranglehold on the game.
They went back in front when second rower Liam Farrell took Smith’s delayed short pass to crash over the line and managed to maintain the pressure on the visitors’ line when Leeds’ disappointing England centre Kallum Watkins fumbled the ball on his own 20-metre line.
Wigan also capitalised on another handling error, this time from the otherwise admirable Ablett, who could only palm Smith’s grubber kick into the path of centre Darrell Goulding for the easiest of tries.
Richards converted both to extend his side’s lead to 18-6, which began to look unassailable when Hansen got back to knock the ball from Moon’s grasp five metres out from the Wigan line.
The chance was created by hooker Rob Burrow, who did more than anybody to spark a late fightback, but Leeds’ hopes finally disappeared when Smith’s jinking run created the position for Charnley to score his 42nd try of the season.
Leeds at least had the final say when substitute Liam Sutcliffe scored a consolation try four minutes from the end and Sinfield drop-kicked the conversion.