Jarrod O'Connor scores for Leeds
Jarrod O’Connor’s try against Wigan was his first for Leeds
Wigan (4) 8
Tries: Marshall, Powell
Leeds (2) 20
Tries: O’Connor, Bentley 2 Goals: Hardaker 4

Leeds took advantage of a resilient first-half defensive display to beat Wigan 20-8 and reach their first Super League Grand Final since 2017.

Liam Marshall gave Wigan an early lead but despite dominating possession and territory, they could not score again.

Leeds turned the game around with quick tries after the break from Jarrod O’Connor and James Bentley, before Wigan had John Bateman sent off.

Bentley scored again to seal the win before Sam Powell’s late consolation.

The Rhinos will play either reigning champions St Helens or Salford Red Devils, who meet in Saturday’s second semi-final, at Old Trafford on 24 September.

However, they will have to do without half-back Aidan Sezer, who failed a head injury assessment after being hit high and late by Bateman, which resulted in the Wigan forward being shown a straight red card.

Wigan, who finished second in the table to earn home advantage in the play-offs, went into the game unbeaten at home this season in all competitions.

But Leeds have been in excellent form since the arrival of Rohan Smith as head coach and have now won 11 of their past 13 matches, including play-off wins at both Catalans Dragons and Wigan to reach the Grand Final for the third time from fifth place in the league.

Resolute Leeds turn game on its head

Liam Marshall scores for Wigan
Liam Marshall’s 22nd Super League try of the season was all Wigan had to show for a dominant first-half display

After an immaculately observed minute’s silence and the playing of the national anthem following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Wigan began the game with intensity and dominated the first half.

They were rewarded with Marshall’s 10th-minute try in the left corner from Harry Smith’s long pass.

However, Smith missed the conversion and later a penalty, while wave after wave of Wigan attack was repelled by Leeds’ resolute defence as the hosts failed to make their dominance show on the scoreboard.

The Rhinos’ barely made it into the Warriors’ half before the break but when they did Zak Hardaker kicked a penalty, after Blake Austin was caught with a high tackle, to make it 4-2 at half-time.

The match then turned on its head in the opening 10 minutes of the second half as O’Connor went over from dummy half on the last tackle for his first Leeds try and Bentley dived on Sezer’s grubber-kick, while Wigan lost Bevan French to injury and were reduced to 12 men when Bateman was sent off.

Wigan, for whom captain Thomas Leuluai was making his final appearance before retiring, thought they were back in it when Marshall touched down for a second time, but the try was ruled out by the video referee after replays suggested he had lost control of the ball.

Bentley scampered over from 10 metres to make the game safe for Leeds, with Powell’s late score unable to dampen the Rhinos’ celebrations.

Wigan Warriors boss Matt Peet told BBC Radio Manchester:

“It was a disappointing evening for us. Leeds were really good and defended the goal line well. I was hoping in the second half our pressure would turn into points.

“They certainly started the second half better than us and our goal line defence was a bit off, we conceded two quick tries and I was still confident.

“[On John Bateman’s sending off] But when we lost John the game got away from us then. I think John has got it wrong with his timing. He had all the best intentions. He’s tried to do something positive for the team but he’s got it wrong and I’ve got no complaints.”

Wigan: Field, French, Pearce-Paul, Bibby, Marshall, Smith, Leuluai, Singleton, Powell, Byrne, Isa, Bateman, Smithies.

Interchanges: Mago, Ellis, Havard, Cooper.

Sent-off: Bateman (51)

Leeds: Myler, Briscoe, Hardaker, Sutcliffe, Tindall, Austin, Sezer, Oledzki, O’Connor, Prior, Bentley, Tetevano, Smith.

Interchanges: Leeming, Donaldson, Walters, Thompson.

Referee: Liam Moore

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