Five most memorable Super League play-off semi-finals
Since their introduction in 1998 the play-offs have added drama, intensity and excitement that makes Super League one of the most entertaining competitions in sport when it comes to end of season spectacles.
With a Grand Final spot at Old Trafford at stake, one of the most nail-biting games of the season for players, coaches and fans are the semi-finals – knowing that your club is either 80 minutes away from a chance at writing its name in the history books or falling at the final hurdle.
Will Warrington, Hull, Wigan and St Helens be able to produce more epic semi-finals like the five below this weekend?
Warrington Wolves 24-26 Leeds Rhinos (2011)
After winning the League Leaders’ Shield and easing past Huddersfield in their first play-off game, Warrington selected Leeds as their ‘club call’ opponents and went into the game as favourites to reach their first Grand Final.
It was a pulsating semi-final with little to separate the two sides. With the scores level at 24 apiece both sides had tries disallowed in the final ten minutes by the video referee.
With the game heading for extra time, attention shifted to Kevin Sinfield and Lee Briers as to who would seal a late drop-goal to send their team to Old Trafford.
Three minutes were left on the clock when Sinfield made an attempt for the one-pointer which was unruly charged down by Wolves’ Richie Myler who referee Steve Ganson deemed to have been offside and awarded Leeds a penalty.
Despite the best attempts from the home crowd at the Halliwell Jones Stadium to distract Sinfield, the Leeds captain held his nerve to slot over the penalty and give Leeds a famous win.
St Helens 10-8 Leeds Rhinos (2007)
A game based on defence, League Leaders St Helens booked their place at Old Trafford with a narrow win over Leeds.
Saints led 8-6 at the break but Kevin Sinfield soon levelled the scores with a penalty after the interval.
The Rhinos enjoyed more of the possession in the second-half but couldn’t break the Saints’ defence and went behind again with 15 minutes remaining as Matty Smith converted a penalty.
St Helens held on for the win but Leeds bounced back to win the elimination semi-final the following week against Wigan and then beat Saints at Old Trafford with a 33-6 victory.
Wigan Warriors 12-13 Leeds Rhinos (2012)
A famous victory at the DW Stadium for Leeds which saw them reach Old Trafford and go on to win the competition from a fifth placed finish for the second consecutive season.
With five minutes remaining Wigan led 12-11 and looked set to reach the Grand Final.
Sinfield’s high-kick was fumbled by Wigan’s Jack Murphy giving Leeds possession on the Warriors’ try line. Two tackles later and Liam Farrell was penalised for being offside giving Sinfield the opportunity to kick for goal and put the Rhinos ahead.
Wigan’s Brett Finch then missed a last-gasp drop-goal attempt to level the scores and take the game into extra time giving Leeds a dramatic win.
Leeds Rhinos 22-23 Wigan Warriors (2003)
A Danny Tickle drop-goal three minutes from time was enough to send Wigan to Old Trafford in a pulsating semi-final.
A superb solo try from Brian Carney, converted by Andy Farrell, put Wigan 22-20 ahead before a Kevin Sinfield 35-metre penalty levelled the scores with ten minutes remaining.
Tickle’s drop-goal then nudged Wigan back in front and despite late pressure on their own try line, the Warriors held on for a dramatic win.
Wigan Warriors 16-12 Warrington Wolves (2014)
One of the most nail-biting finishes to a play-off semi-final in recent seasons took place between Wigan and Warrington at the DW Stadium in 2014.
With little to separate the sides, the scores remained level at 12 points apiece heading into the last 15 minutes and ,with both teams’ defences remaining resilient and drop-goal attempts going wayward, neither side looked like they would make the breakthrough.
With two minutes remaining Joe Burgess scrambled his way through five helpless Warrington defenders to go over in the corner and send Wigan to Old Trafford.