Challenge Cup: Leeds Rhinos 26-12 Wigan Warriors

Leeds (20) 26
Tries: Martin, Handley 2, T Briscoe Goals: Martin 5
Wigan (0) 12
Tries: Smith, Hardaker Goals: Hardaker 2

Leeds Rhinos reached their first Challenge Cup final for five years with a dominant 26-12 win over Wigan at a rain-soaked Totally Wicked Stadium.

First-half tries from Rhyse Martin, Ash Handley and Tom Briscoe gave Rhinos a commanding 20-0 half-time lead.

Handley sealed victory with his second try before late Wigan consolation tries from Harry Smith and Zak Hardaker.

Leeds will play Salford in the behind-closed-doors final at Wembley on 17 October.

Rhinos had not reached a final since thrashing Hull KR 50-0 in 2015, but victory in their 49th Challenge Cup semi-final never looked in doubt after Martin’s early penalty put them in front.

Indeed, such was their dominance of possession and territory that Wigan did not have a single play-the-ball in the Leeds 20 in the whole of the first half.

Luke Gale’s superb 40-20 laid the platform for Leeds’ first try and they capitalised on their field position 10 metres from the Wigan line when Martin spotted a gap in the Warriors defence to power over.

Gale’s exquisite kicking game was also at the heart of the Rhinos’ second try when his high, hanging kick was knocked back by Liam Sutcliffe to Richie Myler, who put Handley in unopposed.

A third try followed on the stroke of half-time when Konrad Hurrell’s perfectly timed pass put Briscoe in at the corner.

Wigan improved after the break but saw their route back into the game denied when Dominic Manfredi’s try was ruled out for an earlier knock-on by Thomas Leuluai.

But after a period of fierce defence, Leeds reasserted their dominance and were rewarded when Sutcliffe was stopped short of the line but offloaded for Handley to cross again.

Wigan refused to give up and got on the scoreboard through Smith’s length-of-the-field run, before Hardaker darted in for a second score.

‘It means everything to go to Wembley’ – post-match reaction

Leeds captain Luke Gale told BBC One:

“It’s probably the wettest game I have ever been involved in but I thought the boys were awesome today.

“We knew it was going to be tough conditions against a tough Wigan side and we ground it out and played the conditions well.

“The forwards were outstanding. Wigan’s pack is phenomenal but we matched them and more.

“It means everything to go to Wembley. I went on trips as a boy to Wembley no matter what team got there, and I am going there now. I am honoured to lead this team.”

Wigan half-back Jackson Hastings told BBC One:

“It wasn’t good enough. Full credit to Leeds, they outplayed us, out-enthused us and disappointingly it looked like they wanted it more.

“We have got a frustrated group of players there who know that wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t a Wigan performance.

“We thought we had a chance to write our names into the history of this club and we didn’t play well enough.”

Wigan: French, Manfredi, Hardaker, Bibby, Burgess, Leuluai, Hastings, Partington, Powell, Havard, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin.

Interchanges: Bullock, Greenwood, Shorrocks, Smith

Leeds: Myler, Handley, Hurrell, Sutcliffe, T Briscoe, Lui, Gale, Seumanufagai, Leeming, Oledzki, Mellor, Martin, Prior.

Interchanges: Holroyd, Dwyer, Smith, Donaldson

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BBC Sport – Rugby League

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