Wigan Warriors 12-13 Leeds Rhinos
Wigan Warriors (0) 12
- Tries: Hansen, Richards
- Goals: Richards 2
Leeds Rhinos (11) 13
- Tries: Watkins
- Goals: Sinfield 4
- Drop goals: Sinfield
Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield inspired his side to a fifth Super League Grand Final in six years in a bruising 13-12 victory against league leaders Wigan.
Sinfield's nine-point haul, all with the boot, added to a try from Kallum Watkins, ensured a return to Old Trafford for a second season in a row.
Wigan mounted a second-half fightback with tries from Harrison Hansen and Pat Richards, but it was not enough.
Brian McDermott's side will face Warrington on 6 October.
Leeds' success means that they have reached the final from fifth place for the second season in a row, having once again shown all their play-off pedigree when it matters most.
Brian McDermott Leeds coach
“At this time of year you need balls of steel to succeed. When everyone else loses their nerve, we manage to keep ours”
They overcame the loss of Danny McGuire to suspension with a gritty team effort, while 2010 champions Wigan, who were without suspended forward Michael McIlorum and star full-back Sam Tomkins (a shock late withdrawal with a knee injury), were left deflated by a second semi-final defeat in as many years.
Early handling errors from both sides hinted at nerves on a soggy night, but it was the Rhinos who made all the first-half running.
The first score came from Leeds after a fierce first 12 minutes, Wigan coughed up possession close to the line, and centre Watkins sprinted the length of the field to touch down under the posts.
Warriors half-back Thomas Leuluai was left bloodied by one tackle, evidence of the Rhinos' tenacity that was matched by the coolness of their captain Sinfield.
When Hansen conceded a penalty for interference 30 metres from the line, Sinfield kicked for two and moments later added another successful kick after his 40-20 had given the visitors field position.
Sinfield's final act of the half was to slot a drop goal with Wigan scrambling for cover close to their line, and establish an 11-point lead at the hooter.
Shaun Wane Wigan coach
“Over the year we've been outstanding but two semi-finals is no good to me. We need to do better.”
If the first 40 was all Leeds, then Wigan were quick to stake a second-half claim when Hansen added their first try just minutes in.
Skipper Sean O'Loughlin set the platform with a snake-like run before Leuluai slipped a perfect ball to Hansen, who held off challenges to touch down.
Rob Burrow was a spilled ball away from adding to Leeds' tally after he had stepped his way through the Wigan line, but his try was chalked off by Richard Silverwood after a discussion with the video referee.
Wane's side responded, as Leeds' Shaun Lunt was deemed to knock on in the tackle and, when Wigan moved the ball out left, Richards took in Brett Finch's cut-out-ball before holding off Zak Hardaker to score.
Scrambling defence at both ends of the field maintained the tension, but with time running out Leeds were gifted a route to the final.
Tomkins' replacement Jack Murphy spilled Sinfield's bomb, Burrow's diagonal run caught Liam Farrell offside and the last of Sinfield's three penalties took Leeds back to Old Trafford.
Wigan went close when Finch missed a drop goal with a minute to go but the Rhinos held on to secure their place in another Grand Final.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Wigan coach Shaun Wane:
"Losing Sam Tomkins is not the reason we lost the game. It's a tough one. It's a really disappointed dressing room. We were not at our 100% best and we needed to be.
"If you play 40 minutes like we did in that first half against a team like Leeds it leaves you with too much to do. Kevin Sinfield is one of the best players there is and he burned us again. In the second half we showed what we can do but, at the end of the day, Leeds know how to win games.
"Over the year we've been outstanding but two semi-finals is no good to me. We need to do better. I don't want to sound arrogant but our standards are very high here and we need to do better."
Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott:
"It's hard to find words to describe my players. They're just a sensational group of people. We stay tough and at this time of year you need balls of steel to succeed. When everyone else loses their nerve, we manage to keep ours.
"We had a fair amount of domination in the first half but Wigan were always going to come back and have their say. Thomas Leuluai put on a sensational play for that try.
"The team had to put Kevin Sinfield in that position to do it. It was about people making that many selfless efforts."
Wigan: Murphy; Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Richards; Finch, Leuluai; Lima, O'Loughlin, Mossop, Hansen, Hock, Farrell.
Replacements: Lauaki, Smith, Flower, Hughes.
Leeds: Hardaker; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Ablett, Hall; Sinfield, Burrow; Leuluai, Lunt, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Bailey.
Replacements: Kirke, Clarkson, Griffin, Ward.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Dewsbury).