Rhinos secure Final spot
Leeds beat Wigan 36-6 in final eliminator
By Phil Jackson. Last Updated: 06/10/07 10:07am
Webb: Grabbed the game's first try
Leeds Rhinos booked their place in the Super League Grand Final with a 36-6 win over Wigan Warriors on Friday night.
Tries from Brent Webb (15, 66), Ali Lautiiti (36), Rob Burrow (63, 74) and 16 points from skipper Kevin Sinfield ensured that coach Tony Smith's final game at Headingley ended in victory.
The new Great Britian boss ended opposite number Brian Noble's proud record of never having lost a play-off match outside the Grand Final in the process, as the Warriors simply ran out of steam.
No team has ever reached the Grand Final after finishing sixth in Super League, and so it proved again.
Despite having beaten the Rhinos on three occasions this year, Wigan could not sustain the effort that had taken them to wins over the Bradford Bulls and Hull FC in previous rounds.
Injuries to Iafeta Paleaasina and Mark Calderwood (broken leg) did not help the cause, and it was the prop forward's missed tackle on Jamie Peacock, which led to the first try.
Noble had persisted with the former New Zealand Warrior despite heavy strapping around his upper thigh, and the decision cost Wigan dear as Peacock played his full-back in for the game's opening try.
Sinfield converted and kicked two penalties to put Leeds 10-0 up, but the home side were not done yet.
When Bryan Fletcher lost the ball in the tackle on 40 metres, relentless Leeds pressure eventually told, with Lauitiiti crashing over the line to take the Rhinos in 16-0 up at half-time.
Wigan made a spirited start to the second-half despite the deficit, and Kylie Leuluai's chip through bounced kindly for Trent Barrett 15 minutes in.
The Australian stand-off committed Webb and he then found Pat Richards for a converted try to lift Wigan's hopes at 16-6 down.
Peacock came back onto the field after taking a breather in the second-half though, and with their influential prop forward back on the pitch Sinfield helped put the game beyond doubt.
First the Leeds captain passed to Jamie Jones-Buchanan to feed Burrow, and then Sinfield's chip kick found Webb for the Kiwi's second try.
Barrett pulled a hamstring and Gareth Hock was put on report for a dangrous tackle on Matt Diskin before the death, and finally Burrow grabbed an interception try to really hammer the nail in Wigan's coffin.