Leeds reach Challenge Cup final

Kevin Sinfield produced a masterclass as holders Leeds beat St Helens 24-14 on Friday to reach their fifth Challenge Cup final in six years.

Leeds captain Sinfield helped the Rhinos end their long quest for Challenge Cup glory when they defeated Castleford at Wembley last August.

Now the 34-year-old stand-off, who had lost all five previous finals in which he had featured with Leeds, will get a shot at adding a second Challenge Cup medal to his collection after his dominant semi-final display set up a final date with Warrington or Hull KR in August.

Mark Percival scored twice for St Helens either side of the break as they desperately tried to overturn Leeds but it wasn’t to be.

Leeds went ahead after only four minutes, Zac Hardaker scoring his 63rd try in 128 games.

Following a needless St Helens penalty, Leeds got field position and Joel Moon offloaded for Hardaker to finish from 10 yards out, with Sinfield, playing in his 11th semi-final before switching to rugby union, kicked the extras.

Rhinos, who dominated the early possession and territory, were denied a second try by the narrowest of margins as Hardaker was adjudged to have knocked the ball forward in the in-goal area.

Leeds’ pressure caused more indiscipline from St Helens on 14 minutes as Sinfield was offered the opportunity to extend his side’s lead with a penalty and the skipper made no mistake to stretch the score to 8-0.

The Rhinos strengthened their grip on the game on 24 minutes as a moment of magic from Rob Burrow punished a knock-on from Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, allowing Kallum Watkins to offload to Moon who strolled in to score.

Australian fullback Adam Quinlan, signed as emergency injury cover in June, gave St Helens a lifeline on 38 minutes.

A great break by Alex Walmsley saw him push the ball onto Quinlan and the Australian showed coolness and timing to tease the Leeds defence before feeding Percival to go in at the corner, only for Luke Walsh to miss the kick at goal.

Veteran Jamie Peacock rolled the back years on 46 minutes as he side-stepped the St Helens defence to roar in under the posts after some dazzling footwork, with Sinfield adding the extras to leave it at 18-4.

Andre Savelio kept St Helens in the game on 52 minutes when he fortuitously regathered the ball from a James Roby kick through before touching down.

And just minutes later the tie was turned on its head when Percival crossed for his second score of the game out wide to bring St Helens firmly back into play.

But Walsh was unable to add the extra two points and, just as Leeds were starting to wobble, Watkins stepped forward when it mattered most and scored a crucial try for the Rhinos on 68 minutes, with Sinfield creating the score with his pass and then adding the extra two points off the tee to make the score 24-14.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan was stretchered off for Leeds after 72 minutes but the injury was a minor blemish on an impressive performance as the Rhinos reached Wembley.

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