Leeds overcome resolute Wigan to reach final

Wigan (4) 4
Tries: Salihi Goals:
Leeds (4) 16
Tries: Hardcastle, Beevers, Moxon Goals: Hayward 2

Leeds were made to work hard before overcoming a resolute Wigan to set up a Challenge Cup final against St Helens.

Amy Hardcastle put the Rhinos ahead on 18 minutes before the impressive Beri Salihi levelled for Wigan at 4-4 shortly afterwards.

It remained level until the hour mark when Leeds’ pressure finally told as England international Caitlin Beevers sprinted through a gap to score.

Tara Moxon added a third after 65 minutes to send Leeds to Wembley.

Leeds have had the upper hand on Wigan in recent times, winning nine of the 11 contests between the teams – and beating them in a Challenge Cup semi-final in 2018.

Beri Salihi
Beri Salihi got the better of Ruby Enright to score Wigan’s try

But it was Wigan who made the better start and they threatened after eight minutes when Anna Davies came close to diving onto a measured kick in behind only for Leeds full-back Ruby Enright to cover well and clear the danger.

The Rhinos soaked up pressure for the opening 10 minutes before advancing upfield with a series of sets, which ended in Hardcastle powering over to score the opening try.

Enright missed the conversion and a knock-on from Beevers soon let Wigan back into the game as they moved the ball wide to Rachel Thompson, who drew defenders before offloading to teenage full-back Salihi to make it all-square after 25 minutes.

The wet conditions were having an impact as Leeds’ Moxon claimed a kick but could not stop herself sliding into touch to give Wigan a good opening shortly before half-time, only for Victoria Molyneux to spill the ball as the Cherry and Whites attacked the line.

A tight opening half ended with the teams level at 4-4 and it was Leeds who were onto the front foot early in second, with Jasmine Earnshaw-Cudjoe probing and testing Wigan’s defence, which just managed to hold up Hardcastle over the line on 45 minutes.

A powerful break from Leeds second row Lucy Murray created another opportunity for the Rhinos to go ahead, but again an inaccurate pass led to a handling error on the Wigan line.

Caitlin Beevers
England international Caitlin Beevers’ crucial try on the hour mark broke Wigan’s resolve

But the Rhinos pressure finally told on the hour mark when Caitlin Casey drew the defence before sending Beevers through a gap and the centre raced over the line, with Eloise Hayward adding the extras to make it 10-4.

That released the pressure valve for Leeds, and Wigan’s defence, which had stood strong for much of the game, began to tire with Leeds adding their third after 65 minutes when Davies knocked-on in her own half, allowing the Rhinos to send the ball wide to Moxon to cross the whitewash.

Hayward added a late penalty to rubber-stamp the victory.

Leeds will take on St Helens in the final at Wembley on 12 August.

Wigan: Salihi, Greenfield, Davies, Jones, Hilton, Banks, Marsh, Speakman, Dwyer, Jones, Molyneux, Coleman, Thompson.

Interchanges: Burrows, Bardsley, Johnson, Hunter.

Leeds: Enright, Moxon, Butcher, Beevers, Robinson, Casey, Greening, Hornby, Bennett, Anderson, Hardcastle, Murray, Dainton.

Interchanges: Cudjoe, Northrop, Glynn, Hayward.

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