HOLDERS Wigan had their Challenge Cup torn from their grasp after they were beaten 39-28 by Leeds in a dramatic, high-scoring semi-final.
Shaun Wane’s side battled until the final minute but they rarely displayed the qualities which has seen them march to the top of the Super League table this term.
He said: “I’m gutted. We saved our worst performance of the season for the biggest game.
“We made too many errors and Leeds are a quality side, they punished us.”
Wigan were on the ropes from the early stages, when a string of critical handling mistakes were ruthlessly punished.
First, Sam Tomkins misjudged Kevin Sinfield’s spiralling high kick, allowing his England team-mate Ryan Hall to easily scoop up the loose ball and race over.
Tomkins then allowed a 40-20 dribble into touch and from the next attack, Leeds slid in for their second try, Kallum Watkins providing the final pass for Ben Jones-Bishop. And Zak Hardaker’s touchdown minutes later made it 16-0.
Tomkins recovered to set up the position from which George Carmont powered over.
And from the next set, Gareth Hock’s rampaging run from inside his own half cut the scoreline to 16-12. But errors continued to blot Wigan’s display, and when Sean O’Loughlin lost possession, it invited the Rhinos to reassert their authority as Hall showed great strength and poise to finish in the corner. Ryan Bailey’s short-range effort was quickly followed by a Ben Jones-Bishop try, swelling Leeds’ advantage to 30-12.
Just before the break, Ben Flower’s good support and equally good footballing skills earned him a try, which Tomkins converted and added a penalty, which cut the margin to 10 points.
Hardaker and O’Loughlin exchanged tries as Wigan battled to get a foothold in the contest. Sinfield – who controlled the game superbly with the boot – added a drop-goal and late penalty to take the scoreline to 39-28, Wigan’s last try coming from Charnley.
They travel to London next Saturday in the Super League.