Leeds Rhinos 24 Warrington 16: McGuire leads Rhinos to Wembley

Tom Briscoe try as Ryan Hall gives a thumbs up to the fans (Picture: Steve Riding)
Tom Briscoe try as Ryan Hall gives a thumbs up to the fans (Picture: Steve Riding)
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DANNY McGuire, such an expert when it comes to Challenge Cup semi-finals, helped Leeds Rhinos to an epic win over Warrington Wolves today to book their spot at Wembley once more.

The ex-England stand-off, so heroic in semi-final victories in 2003 and 2010, came up with two perfect passes to set up crucial tries for Ryan Hall and Joel Moon while he also produced an equally important tackle to deny Chris Hill just as their desperate opponents threatened an unlikely comeback.

The hope now is McGuire and this Leeds team can go on and do the business in the final itself - they play the victors of tomorrow’s clash between Castleford Tigers and Widnes Vikings in a fortnight’s time - and, at last, put their miserable record in this competition to bed once and for all.

Since last lifting the famous trophy in 1999, the West Yorkshire club have lost all six finals in which they have featured, today’s opponents beating them in 2010 and 2012.

But if Leeds deliver this sort of performance - at least their commanding first half display from which they led 14-0 - they will be well-primed to end the heartache when they enter a fourth final in just five years.

Hall scored two first-half tries, both brilliantly converted from the touchline by returning captain Kevin Sinfield, to put Leeds in charge at the interval, his captain having also slotted a third-minute penalty.

However, for all that was an impressive lead against such respected opponents and in a game of such magnitude, Brian McDermott’s side will perhaps have felt they should have been further ahead still.

Warrington were unusually utterly dire, consistently turning the ball over and often completely needlessly, meaning they were unable to build any pressure of any sort.

That said, Leeds’ defence - so quick out of the blocks to cut down Warrington’s myriad creative options - excelled and they were pretty handy going forward, too.

With a towering Jamie Peacock, as ever, setting the lead and McGuire and Rob Burrow buzzing around off the back of an excellent forward effort, they were able to make plenty of yards.

Their fans may have been getting slightly concerned at not adding to that lead earlier than the 25th minute when England winger Hall produced a typical world-class finish - fending Joel Monaghan with one had while touching down in the tightest of circumstances with the other - to finally get the game’s first try.

He added his second in he 36th minute after a terrific Zak Hardaker kick return and superb long pass from McGuire.

Warrington at last put a cohesive move together in the final moments of the half but - the one time they should have passed - Matty Russell opted to ignore an overlap and was enveloped by Brett Delaney.

They re-emerged in the second period a different side, no doubt given some harsh words from Tony Smith, their former Leeds coach.

Carl Ablett was called upon to produce a timely cover tackle to deny Ryan Atkins a try after Rhys Evans’ break but there was no denying Chris Bridge in the 44th minute after Joel Monaghan soared to take Richie Myler’s crossfield kick.

Bridge’s conversion attempt struck a post and, just as threatening Warrington stepped up another gear, Leeds did what all good sides do by responding with a try of their own.

It was a classy effort, initiated by a Peacock offload when all the opponents’ defence thought he was wrapped up, Burrow added some pace and, though Sinfield was collared, McGuire’s lovely flat pass at the next play sent Australian centre Moon over.

Sinfield failed with the kick and then Hardaker, Peacock and Tom Briscoe all somehow managed to allow the restart to bounce dead gifting Warrington an immediate opportunity.

However, McGuire, Ablett and a raft of others came up with an heroic play to deny Hill between the posts just as the England prop seemed certain to score on the last tackle.

There was no such escape on the hour mark, though, when Bridge and Westwood combined, the latter doing remarkably well to offload as he fell to the ground for Ratchford to stretch over, Bridge reducing the deficit to just eight points.

Cruically, Leeds struck next courtesy of one of Warrington’s old problems coming back to haunt them.

Myler’s long pass went to ground and Bricoe picked up to score from halfway, fending off a poor Evans attempted tackle.

Sinfield improved and, though Ben Westwood crossed with five minutes to go, Bridge doing the rest, there was no way his side would let this game slide away.

Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker; Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall; McGuire, Sinfield; Peacock, Burrow, Leuluai, Delaney, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes: Aiton, Kirke, Bailey, Sutcliffe.

Warrington Wolves: Russell; J Monaghan, Bridge, Atkins, R Evans; Ratchford, Myler; Hill, M Monaghan, England, Waterhouse, Westwood, Harrison. Substitutes: Asostasi, Wood, Grix, Higham.

Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington)