League Leaders Wigan ensured the top two teams from the regular season will contest the Super League Grand Final after defeating Leeds at Headingley.
The Warriors gained revenge for the 27-26 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Rhinos a fortnight ago and in doing so ensured there would be no fourth consecutive St Helens versus Leeds match-up at Old Trafford.
It’s seven years since Wigan last appeared in the season showpiece, and 12 since they won their only Super League title to date.
They were the first on the scoresheet in this hotly anticipated encounter when top scorer Pat Richards, who is a contender for the Man of Steel award, slotted over a penalty on 12 minutes.
But it was Leeds who scored the game’s first try when Kevin Sinfield, stepping in at stand-off in the absence of Danny McGuire, who suffered a season-ending injury in the dying seconds of the game at the DW Stadium, dummied his way through the defence to touchdown.
When Wigan went in at half time 8-6 ahead, thanks to Darrell Goulding‘s converted try, it seemed that a tense second half was in store.
However, the table-topping Warriors, inspired by Michael Maguire’s half-time team talk, cut loose in the second half, getting on the scoresheet almost immediately after the restart when Scott Donald misjudged Paul Deacon‘s high kick to allow Joel Tomkins to touchdown.
Wigan had upped the intensity and they grabbed the crucial next score just five minutes later courtesy of the video referee.
Michael McIlorum seemingly lost the ball in the tackle, but Warriors centre George Carmont walked in for a simple try which was eventually given once it had been established that Leeds forward Ali Lauitiiti had stolen the ball in the tackle.
It was job done for Wigan, who had established a commanding lead at 20-6, and they set about withstanding the inevitable onslaught from the three time holders of the Super League crown.
Despite their desperation to keep hold of their title, the Rhinos couldn’t find their way through and the win was sealed with the final act of the match, Martin Gleeson crossing the whitewash to set up a mouthwatering Grand Final against his former club St Helens at Old Trafford on Saturday.