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Wolves knock out
Warrington Wolves skipper Lee Briers snatched a dramatic 18-17 victory for the outsiders with a long-range drop goal two minutes from the end of their engage Super League elimination play-off against Leeds Rhinos.
Briers held his nerve in a tense finish to land the precious one-pointer from 45 metres and earn his side a semi-final against the winners of the second sudden-death tie between Bradford Bulls and Salford City Reds.
Warrington?s shock win was their first in three play-off ties and ended Leeds? hopes of a third successive Grand Final appearance. It also means that the Rhinos are trophy-less for the second successive season.
Yet Leeds looked on course for a repeat of their 54-16 rout of the Wolves three weeks earlier when two flashes of brilliance from diminutive scrum-half Rob Burrow helped put them 12-4 in front after 18 minutes.
The 5ft 5in Burrow pushed his claims for a place in Great Britain?s Tri-Nations squad when it is named on Monday with an impressive first-half performance at Headingley, where the kick-off was delayed by 10 minutes following the late arrival of the visiting team.
Warrington, hammered 54-16 on their last visit to Leeds just three weeks earlier, might have been rueing their brush with traffic congestion after going behind after only four minutes.
Full-back Stuart Reardon, who returned to the Wolves line-up after illness, failed to defuse Burrow?s ?bomb? and compounded the error by missing a tackle on the lightning-quick half-back, who had already bounced off Paul Rauhihi?s challenge and was left with a clear run to the line.
Briers launched a fightback with a successful 40-20 kick that set up the position for winger Henry Fa?afili to squeeze over at the corner on nine minutes, although the stand-off was unable to convert the try.
Leeds, bolstered by the return of Great Britain forward Jamie Peacock and the Bath-bound Chev Walker, who was surprisingly chosen on the wing, survived another scare when centre Keith Senior recklessly tried to pass the ball on his own line.
The ball went to ground and, although Rauhihi was quick to react, slow-motion replays showed he failed to control the touchdown and the score was disallowed by the video referee.
The Rhinos made the most of the let-off, with Burrow producing a clean break on halfway and getting the supporting Danny McGuire over for his 26th try of the season.
Sinfield added his second conversion and Leeds would have been further ahead had centre Clinton Toopi not knocked on with the line open.
Briers pulled two points back with a penalty on the stroke of half-time and Warrington got back to within two points with a second try within two minutes of the re-start.
A wayward pass from Sinfield gave the visitors a great attacking position and, after scrum-half Chris Bridge had gone close, substitute hooker Michael Sullivan took Briers? pass and went on an angled run that took him to the corner.
Briers? goalkick rebounded off a post, leaving him with one success from three attempts, whereas Sinfield made it three from three with a penalty on 49 minutes awarded for a high tackle by Toa Kohe-Love on Leeds prop Ryan Bailey.
McGuire produced a superb tackle to haul down Great Britain centre Martin Gleeson short of the line but he twisted his knee in the process and was forced to leave the field.
It was a worrying moment for both Leeds and Great Britain as McGuire lay prone on the ground but he was soon able to jog up and down the touchline and re-entered the action 20 minutes later.
Sinfield extended his side?s lead with a second penalty but Warrington drew level just short of the hour when loose forward Ben Westwood won the race to Briers? kick to the line and Briers added the goal to set up an exciting final quarter.
Sinfield edged his side back in front on 67 minutes with a drop goal but Briers replied in kind two minutes later to leave the scores deadlocked.
Leeds full-back Jordan Tansey was then wide with an ambitious attempted one-pointer from 30 metres out and, as the tension mounted, Briers had one drop-goal kick charged down before succeeding with the all-important one.
Leeds (12) 17. Tries: Burrow, McGuire. Goals: Sinfield 4. Drop Goals: Sinfield.
Warrington (6) 18. Tries: Fa'afili, Sullivan, Westwood. Goals: Briers 2. Drop Goals: Briers 2.
Leeds: Tansey, Donald, Toopi, Senior, Walker, McGuire, Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Diskin, Peacock, Kirke, Ellis, Sinfield. Replacements: Millard, Lauitiiti, Thackray, Bailey.
Warrington: Reardon, Fa'afili, M. Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Barnett, Briers, Bridge, Wood, M. Gleeson, Rauhihi, Swann, Wainwright, Westwood. Replacements: Sullivan, Parker, Riley, Pickersgill.
Referee: R Silverwood (Dewsbury)