FOUR YEARS ago on Wednesday, Leeds Rhinos recorded one of the finest wins in the club’s history.
The defending Super League champions were given almost no chance when they travelled to league leaders Wigan Warriors for a qualifying semi-final.
Rhinos had finished fifth in the table for the second successive year and Wigan chose to play them as their club call pick.
A year earlier Warrington had seen Leeds as the easy option, only to be stunned by a remarkable Rhinos performance capped by a late winning penalty goal – and history repeated itself on a thrilling night at DW Stadium.
The visitors went into the game without Danny McGuire, who was suspended, but stunned Wigan by building an 11-0 interval lead.
They saw that wiped out in the second half, but – as he had done at Warrington in 2011 – Kevin Sinfield kicked a last-gasp two-pointer to send Rhinos to Old Trafford.
Leeds received a huge pre-match boost with the news Wigan’s ace full-back Sam Tomkins had been ruled out due to injury.
Playing with confidence from the start, Rhinos went ahead when Kallum Watkins snapped up a loose pass and raced the length of the field for a try which Sinfield converted.
The captain booted a penalty and added another two points following his own 40-20 kick, before completing the first half scoring with a drop goal.
Wigan responded just two minutes after the break when Harrison Hansen touched down and Pat Richards added the extras.
Richards edged Wigan in front with a try and a goal, but with time running out Sinfield’s high kick was dropped by Jack Murphy, standing in for Tomkins at full-back.
Rob Burrow spotted Liam Farrell in an offside position and ran straight at him, referee Richard Silverwood awarded the penalty and Sinfield kicked Rhinos into the title decider.
Afterwards, Rhinos boss Brian McDermott described his players as a “sensational group of people”.
He said: “We stay tough and at this time of year you need nerves of steel to succeed.
“When everyone else loses their nerve, we manage to keep ours.
“We had a fair amount of domination in that first half, but Wigan were always going to come back and have their say.”
Wigan Warriors 12
(Tries: Hansen, Richards. Goals: Richards 2)
Leeds Rhinos 13 (Try: Watkins. Goals: Sinfield 4)
September 28, 2012. Super League Qualifying semi-final
Wigan Warriors: Murphy, Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Richards, Finch, Leuluai, Lima, O’Loughlin, Mossop, Hansen, Hock, Farrell. Subs: Lauaki, Smith, Flower, Hughes.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Ablett, Hall, Sinfield, Burrow, Leuluai, Lunt, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Bailey. Subs: Kirke, Clarkson, Griffin, Ward.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Dewsbury).