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Carnegie Challenge Cup Semi-Final Review by Simon Reuben
Leeds Rhinos turned a tremendous performance to knock holders and favourites Wigan Warriors, to reach their third successive Challenge Cup Final.
Six weeks ago Wigan put down the marker as they mauled the Rhinos 50-8 at Headingley.
But since then have turned their season around and came into this big game full of confidence after putting together a four-match winning run.
This showed in the early stages and just after three minutes a towering kick by Kevin Sinfield was fumble by Sam Tomkins, Ryan was on hand to collect the ball and open the scoring in the left hand corner. Sinfield added the extras from the touchline.
Moments later Sinfield's 40-20 kick set up the position for Ben Jones-Bishop taking centre Kallum Watkins' pass to touch down at the other corner.
It was all the Rhinos and it got even better when winger Josh Charnley lost the ball in Ryan Bailey's tackle on his own 20-metre line, Jamie Peacock breaking through to get full-back Zak Hardaker over. Sinfield added the conversion to make it 16-0 after just 11 minutes.
Wigan got some ball and hit back with two tries in two minutes. Centre George Carmont got the first, cutting a superb line from a scrum 10 metres out, while second rower Gareth Hock romped over from 40 metres, taking Finch's defence-splitting pass. Tomkins landed both conversions to cut the deficit to 16-12 after 23 minutes.
But Leeds weathered the storm and hit back as Hall grabbed his second try, courtesy of a superb break and offload from McGuire, Tomkins then was penalised for picking the ball up from an offside position and Ryan Bailey made the pressure tell when he stretched out of a two-man tackle to plant the ball on the line.
Charnley then pulled off a try-saving tackle on McGuire before Jones-Bishop registered his second try, taking Sinfield's kick by his finger-tips and touching down with inches to spare as the Rhinos stunningly had scored six first half tries to lead 30-12.
However, Wigan hit back with a try from Ben Flower and two Tomkins goals to cut the gap to 30-20 at the end of a pulsating first half which saw nine tries.
Nine minutes into the second half, the Rhinos increased their lead, when impressive second rower Brett Delaney burst through and got the supporting Hardaker over for his second try despite a suspicion of a knock-on by McGuire.
Wigan were still not finished as Sean O'Loughlin gathered Tomkins' kick to score his side's fourth try but they were now playing catch up.
Sinfield's 64th-minute drop goal effectively settled the tie but the Warriors would not throw the towel in and twice went close through Jack Hughes and Tomkins, while Hall was denied a hat-trick when he was penalised for a double movement.
Wigan eventually got their fifth try through Charnley but it was captain Sinfield who had the final say by kicking a last minute penalty goal to book Leeds a third visit to Wembley in as many years.
Leeds Rhinos 39 (Hall 2, Hardaker 2, Jones-Bishop 2 and Bailey tries. Sinfield 5 goals. Sinfield field goal.) defeat Wigan Warriors 28 (Carmont, Charnley, Flower, Hock and O'Loughlin tries. Tomkins 4 goals.) Att:12,860 played at Galpharm Stadium Huddersfield
Warrington booked their place at Wembley with a comfortable win over Huddersfield Giants.
Both teams came into this one in contrasting form, the Giants were in freefall with only 1 win in eight games as they faced the daunting task of stopping the second place Warrington Wolves who were odds on favourites.
After being drubbed at Castleford last week, Huddersfield needed a good start and this week they got one. Danny Brough created a glorious attacking position with a 40-20 kick and supplied the pass which got second rower David Fa'alogo romping through a hole in support was Scott Moore who touched down near the posts.
Brough added the goal to make it 6-0 lead but Warrington seized on a series of defensive blunders by the Giants and punished them by running in 18 points without reply by the break.
Prop Keith Mason gifted the Wolves perfect field position with a knock-on inside his own 20-metre area and his opposite number Garreth Carvell punished him with a bee fit of the doubt try by the video referee.
Carvell had a more clear-cut chance midway through the half when he burst clear with support on either side but he held onto the ball and was tackled 20 metres short of the line.
Huddersfield had their chances, but they were denied by some good defence. Lee Briers exposed their vulnerability under the high ball as Ryan Atkins scored straight from a scrum after Grix had fumbled a kick and winger Joel Monaghan struck shortly later after the Huddersfield full-back was again found wanting.
Ex Giant Brett Hodgson converted all three tries to put Warrington into an 18-6 half time lead.
The West Yorkshire team made a better start to the second period Centre Lee Gilmour twice came up with breaks that led to nothing while replacement hooker Luke Robinson and Cudjoe both got over the line but were unable to ground the ball and these seemed to knock Huddersfield back.
Hodgson then punished his former team when put through a huge gap by Briers for the decisive try in the game
Man-of-the-Match Hodgson extended Warrington lead with a drop goal and penalty before Stefan Ratchford put the icing on the cake with his sides fifth try four minutes from time.
So in six weeks time it