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Super League: Smith never doubted resilient Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith said he never doubted his side were capable of recovering in the second half as they came back to beat Wigan Warriors to seal their place in the Super League Grand Final.

Leeds had to withstand considerable first-half pressure at the DW Stadium in Friday's semi-final and were 4-2 down at the break following a Liam Marshall try for the hosts.

Batemen dismissal key

However, things turned the visitors' way in the second period thanks to tries from Jarrod O'Connor and James Bentley before Wigan had John Bateman sent off to significantly boost Smith's side's hopes of coming out on top.

Bentley scored again and Sam Powell crossed late on for Matt Peet's side but it finished 20-8 to Leeds, who now head to the Grand Final for the first time since 2017, where they will play reigning champions St Helens.

Smith said he always had faith in his side's defence during a testing first half and was confident they were capable of recovering, praising the spirit in the squad to get the job done.

He said: "I was not at all worried. It's part of the game. I feel there is belief in the group that we could find our way through it.

"Our goal-line defence has been very good for a period of time now. There is a lot of trust and belief. Everyone was calm and relaxed and doing their job.

"Everybody felt good about themselves going in at 4-2."

Smith also admitted he was "really proud and privileged" to be part of a Leeds set-up that has battled superbly from a fifth-place finish in the regular season to now make it to Old Trafford for the Grand Final.

They overcame Catalans Dragons 20-10 away in the Eliminator last week before going to Wigan, who finished second and nine points ahead of them in the table, to eventually win and progress.

After what has been a difficult campaign at times, Leeds will hope for more Super League glory next weekend when they take on reigning champions St Helens in the huge season-ending match on 24th September at Old Trafford.

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Much-improved Rhinos

Much-improved performances over the summer helped to transform their fortunes with Smith taking plenty of credit for the job he has done at Headingley to get them moving up the table.

Leeds were in the bottom four when he arrived in April but they fought their way into play-off contention and enjoyed a six-game winning run at the end of July and throughout August to prove their end-of-season credentials.

They will now begin preparations for next Saturday's Grand Final, although they do have some injury concerns hanging over several players.

Sezer doubt

Key half-back Aidan Sezer will be assessed after he was forced off in the 50th minute following Bateman's poor tackle, while wingers Ash Handley and David Fusitu'a are also major doubts for the Old Trafford showpiece. Harry Newman, however, has already been ruled out.

The Rhinos have won the Grand Final eight times since 2004 but not since they triumphed 24-6 against Castleford Tigers five years ago.

Leeds will play St Helens next weekend after they overcame Salford Red Devils in Saturday's second semi-final. Kristian Woolf's side won 19-12 at the Totally Wicked Stadium to book their place in the Grand Final.

Saints secured the League Leaders' Shield after finishing four points clear of Wigan at the top in the regular campaign and are aiming to become the first side to ever win four successive Super League Grand Finals.

St Helens won the two meetings against Leeds this season, recording a convincing 26-0 victory at Headingley in April before a 42-12 success over the Rhinos at home in June.

Leeds are 7/4 to be crowned champions, while St Helens are 4/9 to make it four titles on the bounce.

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