A 78th-minute penalty from their talisman Kevin Sinfield last night took Leeds into the Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday.
A pulsating second half seemed to be heading for golden-point extra-time when Warrington succeeded in charging down Sinfield's drop-goal attempt.
But the referee, Steve Ganson, no stranger to controversy, stood his ground, indicated that at least one of the chasers had been offside and Sinfield put over a simple kick. The Wolves, the best team in Super League all season, were left with nothing.
The Warrington coach, Tony Smith refused to blame defeat on that incident. " I haven't watched the replay but we didn't execute as we needed to tonight," he said.
Leeds' Brian McDermott praised the "integrity, courage and honour" of his players. "I'm so proud of them after the stick they've copped all year."
Both sides made a nervous start to a low-scoring first half, but it was Leeds who settled first. Garreth Carvell was penalised for stealing the ball in the tackle, Sinfield drilled the ball upfield and from that good attacking position, Danny McGuire's angled kick sat up perfectly for Carl Ablett. Sinfield added the conversion.
Only very gradually did the Wolves get the upper hand. Their equaliser came after 14 minutes, when Ryan Hall fumbled at the play-the-ball. Lee Briers kicked for the corner, Matt King won it and Chris Bridge channelled it back for Joel Managhan to score.
There were hints of Warrington taking control with two near-misses. Chris Riley made a break from Ryan Atkins' pass, but threw his inside ball to nobody. Five minutes before the interval, they finally got their noses in front. David Solomona drew a posse into the tackle and Michael Monaghan threw a looping pass for Riley to find a hole in the defence.
He was only in that position because Brett Hodgson had just limped off, but that was a stroke of luck that was due to Warrington, whose lead remained intact when Zak Hardaker lost the ball after a threatening run.
That advantage lasted only two minutes into the second half, though, when Hall intercepted from Simon Grix to go 50 metres and touch down. Almost immediately, the Wolves struck back, Briers' crafty kick forcing a penalty, which they chose to run rather than kick, a decision that was richly rewarded when King got over in the corner and Bridge landed the touchline conversion.
This time, Leeds' reply was spectacular, Rob Burrow breaking from deep in his own territory, McGuire supporting and, when hauled down in a two-man tackle, throwing a blind pass straight into Hall's arm. Another fine conversion from Sinfield and the scores were level yet again. Now all the momentum was with Leeds, with Burrow again the key man, backing up Brent Webb's break to put them ahead.
Warrington got their chance to level again when Weller Hauraki lost the ball in Adrian Morley's thunderous tackle. At the end of that set, Briers' beautifully disguised reverse pass sent Riley over.
Two minutes later, King was stopped just short and a debatable penalty for Solomona's tackle on Ryan Bailey gave Sinfield a shot at goal which went dead off the post and a Warrington hand. Hall got over for what could have been the winner, but there was a knock-on and the tension continued to boil.
Warrington: Hodgson; J.Monaghan, King, Atkins, Riley; Briers, Myler; Morley, M.Monaghan, Carvell, Anderson, Grix, Bridge. Substitutes used: Westwood, Clarke, Cooper, Solomona.
Leeds: Webb; Jones-Bishop, Hardaker, Ablett, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Clarkson. Substitutes used: Burrow, Bailey, Kirke, Hauraki.
Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).Reuse content