LEEDS RHINOS have had mixed fortunes in Challenge Cup semi-finals during the summer era, but will be aiming for a fourth straight win at the last four stage this weekend.
The clash with Warrington Wolves at St Helens on Saturday will be Leeds’ first semi-final outside Yorkshire since 2002 when they were crushed 42-16 by St Helens at Wigan.
Rhinos have been regular semi-finalists since Super League began in 1996. The game in five days’ time will be their 14th appearance at that stage and so far they have won seven and lost six.
Leeds were beaten by Huddersfield embarrassingly in 1996 and spiritedly the following year, before an epic 23-10 victory over their fierce rivals in 1999 at Huddersfield.
Rhinos trailed 10-0 early on, but clawed their way back into the game with tries by Ryan Sheridan and Marcus St Hilaire, before Iestyn Harris scored a late touchdown to seal the win.
He also booted five goals and Sheridan landed a one-pointer.
Rhinos were successful again the following year, when they beat Hull 28-22. That game is best remembered for a post-match pitch invasion by Hull supporters.
Leeds maintained their run of semi-final appearances in the following three seasons, facing Saints on each occasion.
An under-strength team were beaten 27-22 in a thrilling clash in 2001, but the following year at the same Wigan venue was a humiliation.
Rhinos made amends in 2003 at Huddersfield when they won 33-26 in possibly the best-ever semi-final.
Saints were hot favourites, but Daryl Powell-coached Leeds refused to roll over. They seemed dead and buried when Darren Smith crossed to edge Saints into a 26-20 lead with three minutes left.
But crucially Paul Sculthorpe couldn’t convert, Rhinos mounted a last-ditch attack and Danny McGuire – a second-half substitute – dummied over for a try on the final play.
Kevin Sinfield kicked a stunning touchline conversion to send the game into extra-time and then booted Rhinos ahead with a drop goal, after Saints had a touchdown ruled out by the video referee.
Micky Higham almost got over for Saints with two minutes left, but Leeds countered and McGuire weaved across for his second touchdown, Sinfield sealing a 33-26 victory with the conversion.
Leeds’ next semi-final was a 56-18 romp against Toulouse in 2005, but they were shocked 30-12 by Huddersfield Giants at Odsal the following year.
Saints ended Leeds’ hopes with a convincing 26-16 victory in 2008, which was the last time Leeds have lost a semi-final.
In 2010 Saints were pipped 32-28 in another thriller at Huddersfield and the following year Leeds needed a sudden-death extra-time penalty goal from Sinfield to see off Castleford Tigers 10-8 at Doncaster.
Rhinos were supposed to be there to make up the numbers when they faced Wigan Warriors at Huddersfield in 2012, but three early tries and a man of the match performance by Kevin Sinfield set the platform for a magnificent 39-28 victory.