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Smith always believed Leeds could stun Wigan to reach the grand final

Leeds manager Rohan Smith always had faith in his players as they produced a remarkable display of courage and determination to condemn 12-man Wigan to a first home defeat of the season and reach an 11th great Super League final.

The Rhinos were under pressure for virtually the entire first half of Friday’s semi-final at DW Stadium, but managed to limit their opponents to a 4-2 lead before finding their attacking rhythm in the second half.

Improvised hooker Jarrod O’Connor scored his first try for the club four minutes into the second half and former St Helens second rower James Bentley added two more to help Leeds claim a stunning victory 20-8 which will take them to Old Trafford next Saturday. .

“I wasn’t worried at all,” Smith said of his side’s stoic first-half efforts. “It’s part of the game.

“I feel like the band believes we could find our way through this.

“Our goal-line defense has been very good for some time now, there’s a lot of confidence and conviction. Everyone was calm and relaxed and doing their job.

“Everyone felt good about themselves at 4-2.”

The only disappointment for Leeds was an injury to scrum-half Aidan Sezer, who was pulled for a head injury assessment after being brought down by a late high tackle from Wigan England striker John Bateman and is at risk of miss the grand finale.

“We haven’t spoken to the doctor yet,” Smith said. “I try to enjoy it for a few minutes. We’ll talk about Aidan on the way home.”

A first trip to Old Trafford for five years caps a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of the Rhinos, who were second from bottom in the Super League in April after winning just one of their first 10 games.

Smith added: “I didn’t know much, but I knew enough to know that there was a good group of players and a good group of people.

“I am really proud and privileged to be part of it. Now that the dust has settled, we’re starting to think a bit about next week.”

Smith confirmed center Harry Newman would not be fit to play in the Grand Final while fellow three-quarterbacks Ash Handley and David Fusitu’a remain injury doubts.

Bateman was shown a red card for his tackle on Sezer and will now face an anxious wait to find out if it puts his World Cup place in jeopardy, with the Rugby Football League Match Review Committee set to take a close look the incident on Monday.

“I have nothing to complain about,” Wigan manager Matt Peet said. “We understand the rules.

“John had all the best intentions, it was a split second mistake. Hope Aidan is okay.

“It would be sad if he got banned, but I guess they have to stick with what they’ve been doing all season. It would be a shame to miss the World Cup matches.

Wigan’s misery was compounded by the loss of phenom Bevan French to a foot injury early in the second half and they led 20-4 before hooker Sam Powell scored his 250th appearance for them with a try late consolation.

“I’m sad for the group, but I remain really proud of the group,” said Peet, who guided Wigan to victory in the Challenge Cup final in his first season as head coach. “It has been a special year.

“Leeds deserve a huge amount of credit for the way they played, for the way they defended their goal line in particular. They showed great resilience which is a sign of their commitment to each other. others.

The defeat ended a disappointing end to the glittering career of Wigan captain Thomas Leuluai, who made his 327th appearance in place of the injured Cade Cust.

Peet said: “His career speaks for itself, it’s a fairy tale that his family should be proud of.”

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