Super League: James Bentley’s double sends Leeds Rhinos into Grand Final with 20-8 win over Wigan Warriors


Two tries from James Bentley, one from Jarrod O’Connor and three goals from Zak Hardaker saw the Rhinos stun the Warriors to return to Old Trafford for the first time since they were crowned champions in 2017

Last Updated: 16/09/22 10:28pm

Leeds’ James Bentley celebrates his first try against Wigan

James Bentley was the hero with two tries which helped Leeds Rhinos advance to this year’s Betfred Super League Grand Final with a 20-8 victory away to Wigan Warriors in Friday’s semi-final.

Liam Marshall’s 22nd try of the season put the Warriors into the lead with 10 minutes gone, but despite enjoying the lion’s share of the territory and possession for much of the first half they were otherwise unable to break down the Rhinos’ defence.

A penalty from the boot of ex-Wigan man Zak Hardaker ensured Leeds were well in it at half-time as the hosts led 4-2 and they surged ahead five minutes after the restart through tries from Jarrod O’Connor and back row Bentley.

Wigan, already with leading try-scorer Bevan French forced off due to an ankle injury, were then dealt a huge blow when John Bateman was sent off for a late hit on Aidan Sezer and Bentley’s second put the seal on the win to send the Rhinos to Old Trafford for the first time in five years.

Story of the game

Unbeaten at home during the regular season and coming into the game on the back of a week without a game by virtue of finishing second in the table, Wigan were regarded as overwhelming favourites against a Leeds side that finished fifth.

The Rhinos, who had only secured their play-off spot in the final round of the regular season with a last-gasp win over Castleford Tigers following a remarkable revival under head coach Rohan Smith, headed to the DW Stadium buoyed by a gritty 20-10 win away to last year’s Grand Final runners-up Catalans Dragons in the Eliminators last week though.

Those attributes came to the fore repeatedly in the first half at the DW Stadium as they were able to repel Wigan time and time again despite the hosts spending much of the first 40 minutes camped deep inside the Rhinos’ half.

Cade Cust and Liam Farrell were both ruled out for Wigan due to injury, with Sam Powell returning to the team after being out with a foot injury since the end of July.

Leeds were still without the suspended Rhyse Martin, while Morgan Gannon, Harry Newman, Ash Handley and David Fusitu’a were all ruled out. Mikolaj Oledzki started despite suffering a shoulder injury in the Eliminator win over Catalans and Bodene Thompson returned to the side.

James Bentley with the try that extends Leeds' lead over Wigan.

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James Bentley with the try that extends Leeds’ lead over Wigan.

James Bentley with the try that extends Leeds’ lead over Wigan.

All they had to show for that was a 10th-minute try from Marshall though after Morgan Smithies had recovered the ball from a blocked Blake Austin kick. Harry Smith found the winger wide on the left and he stepped on the gas and leapt over in the corner to ground the ball one-handed for a spectacular finish.

By contrast, Leeds had carved out very little in attack, but they did return to the changing rooms at half-time within touching distance after former Wigan man Hardaker slotted over a penalty from 10 metres out five minutes before the break.

The Rhinos then surged ahead within five minutes of the restart as stand-in hooker O’Connor, whose father Terry played in the first Grand Final for Wigan in 1998, darted over for his first professional try which was duly converted by Hardaker.

Two minutes later, the visitors seized control of the contest as Bentley, the pantomime villain among opposing fans at times this year due to disciplinary issues, chased down a kick from half-back Sezer to score the try which put one foot in the final for the eight-time Super League champions.

Wigan Warriors: Try – Liam Marshall, Sam Powell.

Leeds Rhinos: Tries – James Bentley (2), Jarrod O’Connor; Goals – Zak Hardaker (3).

Wigan's John Bateman is sent off for dangerous tackle on Aidan Sezer.

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Wigan’s John Bateman is sent off for dangerous tackle on Aidan Sezer.

Wigan’s John Bateman is sent off for dangerous tackle on Aidan Sezer.

Wigan’s job got even harder when Bateman was dismissed after getting a tackle on Sezer wrong and hitting him late, leading to the Leeds man failing a head injury assessment which rules him out of the Grand Final.

The Warriors did come close to grabbing a try soon after, only for the video referee to adjudicate Marshall had knocked on before grounding the ball, and Bentley put the seal on the win for Leeds 15 minutes from time after spying a gap in the defence and powering through.

Sam Powell did manage a late consolation try for Wigan on his 250th club appearance, but this year’s Betfred Challenge Cup winners were already beaten as the Rhinos saw out the match to book their place at Old Trafford for the first time since they last lifted the Super League trophy in 2017.

What they said

Wigan Warriors head coach Matt Peet

Wigan coach Matt Peet felt that Leeds were 'worthy winners' after booking their place in the Grand Final at Old Trafford.

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Wigan coach Matt Peet felt that Leeds were ‘worthy winners’ after booking their place in the Grand Final at Old Trafford.

Wigan coach Matt Peet felt that Leeds were ‘worthy winners’ after booking their place in the Grand Final at Old Trafford.

“It is a tough one and I am sad because I wanted another week with the team. They are such a pleasure to work with.

“But I thought Leeds were outstanding and worthy winners. I think they deserve to go on and win the Final.”

Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith

Leeds coach Rohan Smith was visably emotional after seeing his side reached the Super Grand Final after beating Wigan.

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Leeds coach Rohan Smith was visably emotional after seeing his side reached the Super Grand Final after beating Wigan.

Leeds coach Rohan Smith was visably emotional after seeing his side reached the Super Grand Final after beating Wigan.

“It is a pretty special moment to be here. I am so privileged.

“They have three different coaches this year and that is tough in itself but they stayed on task. I’m sure they set out last pre-season to be going to Old Trafford and it’s turned out that way.”

What’s next?

Leeds advance to Old Trafford for this year’s Super League Grand Final on Saturday, September 24 (6pm kick-off), live on Sky Sports. They will face the winner of Saturday’s semi-final between St Helens and Salford Red Devils (1pm), which is also live on Sky Sports.



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