Leeds Rhinos won their first Challenge Cup in five years after Luke Gale's late drop-goal secured a 17-16 win over Salford Red Devils on Saturday. 

Tries from Tom Briscoe and Ash Handley, both converted by Rhyse Martin, helped Leeds to a 12-6 half-time lead, with Rhys Williams' score giving Salford hope ahead of the second period. 

They built on that after the break as Pauli Pauli and James Greenwood crossed to put them ahead before the hour mark. 

Handley's second try pulled Leeds level before Gale slotted over the winning one-pointer with just four minutes remaining. 

Leeds head coach Richard Agar told the BBC: "Luke's come up with a massive play for us. I'm so proud of everything that they've cultivated and nurtured in the group. We weren't perfect but we showed resilience when we had to."

Salford head coach Ian Watson said: "There were small margins. The boys didn't lack effort; they were just not smart enough. Luke Gale took his opportunity when it came. It's disappointing with the history surrounding the Challenge Cup, because winning it is a special thing."

Penrith Panthers ended a 17-year wait to return to the NRL Grand Final, beating South Sydney Rabbitohs 20-16 in a thriller at ANZ Stadium.

Ivan Cleary's side set up a clash next weekend with the Melbourne Storm, thanks to tries from Brian To'o, Tyrone May and Dylan Edwards.

Penrith's lone appearance in the Grand Final saw them beat the Sydney Roosters in 2003, and now they can target a second premiership.

It will be a battle between the two sides that were the strongest across the campaign, with Penrith having lost just one of 20 regular-season games.

In Saturday's preliminary final, Alex Johnston gave the Rabbitohs a dream start with a fourth-minute opening try, dotting down after captain Adam Reynolds put a perfect kick into the left corner.

Moments later, however, Johnston was at fault when he dropped a high kick and allowed To'o to barge through.

The Panthers were 12-6 ahead by the half-hour mark after May clutched a clever kick over the defence from Nathan Cleary, and a Cleary penalty just before the interval stretched their lead to eight points.

Dane Gagai snatched a try back for the Rabbitohs 10 minutes into the second half, making it a tight game again at 14-12.

Yet Isaah Yeo made a burst through the Rabbitohs defensive ranks and fed a short pass to his left, allowing Edwards to dart in under the posts in the 66th minute and stretch their advantage decisively.

Corey Allan pulled back four points for South Sydney, but Reynolds missed the extras and they failed to trouble the scoreboard again.

Melbourne Storm booked a place in the NRL Grand Final for the fourth time in five years with a resounding 30-10 victory over Canberra Raiders on Friday.

A three-try blitz inside the opening 10 minutes put the Storm en route to a showdown with Penrith Panthers or South Sydney Rabbitohs, as the Raiders missed out on an immediate return to the showpiece following their 2019 defeat to the Sydney Roosters.

Jesse Bromwich powered in for the first score of the game for Craig Bellamy's side, and Ryan Papenhuyzen followed it up by finishing off a wonderful team move ahead of an excellent solo effort from Suliasi Vunivalu.

Cameron Smith, who is expected to retire following his Grand Final outing next weekend, added a penalty before converting Justin Olam's try, which was scored after Nick Cotric failed to bat Papenhuyzen's grubber out of the in-goal area, to put the Storm 24-0 up after 25 minutes.

Cotric got the Raiders on the board before half-time but they were unable to significantly build on that and Dale Finucane marked his 200th NRL appearance by effectively ending the contest when he span over after the hour mark.

Smith produced an excellent tackle to stop Cotric short of the try line, but the Canberra wing doubled his tally with eight minutes remaining, yet there was no hope of keeping their season alive.

Champions St Helens stretched their winning run to nine Super League matches with a 48-6 thrashing of strugglers Wakefield Trinity on Thursday.

The chasm between the division's top and bottom sides was evident as Tommy Makinson ran in a first-half hat-trick.

There were also two tries before the break for James Roby and a single score from Alex Walmsley to open up a 30-0 advantage.

Innes Senior belatedly offered a Wakefield response after Regan Grace extended that lead early in the second period.

Tries from Lewis Dodd and Kevin Naiqama completed the scoring for Saints, though, comfortable winners in the only match of the evening as coronavirus cases in the Wigan Warriors camp led to the clash with Catalans Dragons being called off.

Australia coach Mal Meninga has been given permission to take up an assistant role under Queensland boss Wayne Bennett for this year's State of Origin series.

Meninga will step down from Kangaroos duties in the short term to be Bennett's assistant for the series against New South Wales, with the opening game to be played in Adelaide on November 4.

From 2006 to 2015, Meninga was Maroons coach, leading them to eight straight series wins and nine in 10.

"From my perspective, it's great to be involved, and to work under Wayne and the current batch of players is something that I'm really excited about," Meninga said.

"It's been a unique year, and with no Test matches, this position allows me to remain in touch with the latest trends in the game."

Queensland will be aiming to respond after back-to-back series losses to New South Wales.

Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V'landys said the Kangaroos' situation amid the coronavirus pandemic meant it was possible for Meninga to take up the role with the Maroons despite being contracted as Australia coach until the end of 2021.

"This year is an exceptional year," V'landys said.

"Under normal circumstances you can't be head coach of the Kangaroos and be involved in an Origin squad. But given there are no Test matches because of COVID we have granted Mal permission to assist Queensland.

"Mal is an Origin legend and his presence in the series will add an additional layer of excitement for our fans and players."

Warrington Wolves moved into Super League's top four by defeating an inexperienced Leeds Rhinos side, while Hull KR overcame Salford Red Devils in a game that was delayed as both clubs awaited coronavirus test results.

With the Rhinos focusing their attention on Saturday's Challenge Cup final against Salford, a youthful line-up selected by head coach Richard Agar suffered a 32-6 defeat against Warrington at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

Sam Walters restored parity after Toby King marked his 100th appearance for the Wolves with the first try of the game, with Stefan Ratchford's penalty the difference between the two teams at half-time.

However, the Wolves' experience told and a double from Matty Ashton sandwiched scores for Ben Currie and Daryl Clark in what ended up being a comfortable win.

Kick-off in Tuesday's first game between Rovers and Salford was pushed back by an hour just 90 minutes before kick-off after two players from each side returned inconclusive coronavirus tests, while the Red Devils confirmed two positive results earlier in the day.

The struggling Robins led for a fourth time when Jordan Abdull went over but Ed Chamberlain missed a conversion that would have put Salford in front after he touched down in the 77th minute.

However, Jamie Ellis scored a last-minute penalty after Pauli Pauli's high tackle on Matt Parcell to seal a 24-22 success, with Salford dropping to ninth as a result.

Marc Sneyd split the posts with a late penalty to give Hull FC an 18-16 victory over Huddersfield Giants in the day's other game.

South Sydney Rabbitohs will face minor premiers Penrith Panthers for a place in the NRL Grand Final after producing another superb comeback to stun Parramatta Eels. 

The Bunnies came from 14 points down to beat the Newcastle Knights last week and trailed 18-8 at half-time at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday. 

However, they produced a magnificent 30-point second half to turn the contest on its head and prevail 38-24 on Saturday. 

A brace from Clinton Gutherson, sandwiched by a score from George Jennings, put the Eels in command at the break. 

But Liam Knight and Cameron Murray scored within the space of nine second-half minutes to give Souths a 20-18 lead that they extended in remarkable fashion.

Mitchell Moses had a seemingly simple penalty to level matters, but his effort cannoned off the post and rebounded to Jaxson Paulo, who surged deep into Eels territory. 

On the last tackle play, Damien Cook's kick was tossed up in the air by a desperate Gutherson, with Bayley Sironen there to touch down. 

It proved the pivotal moment in the game, which was effectively decided when Paulo intercepted Dylan Brown's looping pass to cross for his second. 

Jennings' second gave Parramatta a glimmer of hope before Cook danced his way over to book Souths' place in the preliminary final as they became the first team to overturn successive double-digit deficits in the finals since Melbourne Storm in 1999.

Parramatta Eels star Michael Jennings has been provisionally suspended under the NRL's anti-doping policy following a positive drugs test.

The NRL on Saturday announced Jennings returned a positive A-sample for banned substances Ligandrol and Ibutamoren, and three of their metabolites – the day Parramatta are scheduled to meet South Sydney Rabbitohs in the semi-final.

Jennings – a former New South Wales centre and Tonga international who won the NRL premiership with Sydney Roosters in 2013 – now has the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.

The 32-year-old was tested on September 21 with the result received by Sport Integrity Australia on October 9.

It is a huge blow for the Eels, who are looking to reach their first NRL Grand Final since finishing runners-up in 2009.

"The Parramatta Eels have today been made aware of the provisional suspension handed down to Michael Jennings under the NRL's Anti-Doping Policy," the club's statement read.

"Details of that provisional suspension and alleged breach of the anti-doping policy will be outlined in an NRL Media statement to be distributed today.

"Michael Jennings has been stood down from today's game and ongoing training/playing responsibilities while the process runs its course, which under the policy includes the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.

"The club has been in contact with Michael and will continue to offer him and his family our full wellbeing support."

Jennings joined the Eels from the Roosters at the end of the 2015 campaign, having previously played for Penrith Panthers.

He signed a new deal with the Eels in July, keeping him at the club through the 2021 season, with an option for 2022.

This season, Jennings has made 20 appearances, scored seven tries and supplied four assists.

Liam Farrell's late try secured an 18-14 victory for Wigan Warriors over Warrington Wolves, while St Helens continued to roll in Super League on Friday.

The Wolves led by six points at the break, with a penalty try and Chris Hill's score answered by Joe Greenwood for Wigan.

Zak Hardaker converted his own try to level the scores but a Stefan Ratchford penalty had Warrington just ahead going into the final stages.

But, just when it looked as though Warrington's brave defensive effort would yield its reward, Farrell took Harry Smith's offload to go over with four minutes left and Hardaker added the extras for second-placed Wigan to keep the Wolves fifth.

Leaders St Helens were made to work hard for an eighth straight Super League win, coming from behind to defeat Wakefield Trinity 20-16 in the first of the double header at Headingley.

Alex Walker and Craig Kopczak tries had Wakefield flying but their advantaged was reduced to 12-10 by the break, as Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Lachlan Coote responded.

Regan Grace crossed and Coote had a second before Matty Ashurst scored a consolation late on for struggling Wakefield.

Catalans Dragons remain in the play-off race after outclassing Hull KR 34-4.

Joel Tomkins and Tom Davies scored twice tries apiece, while Ben Garcia and Israel Folau also touched down to send the Dragons above Leeds Rhinos into third spot.

Sydney Roosters' hopes of winning three NRL titles in a row are over after Canberra Raiders held on for a 22-18 victory in the semi-finals on Friday. 

Trent Robinson's team were bidding to become the first to three-peat since the Parramatta Eels did so between 1981 and 1983, but they were rocked by the Raiders' rapid start at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 

Josh Papalii, George Williams and Joseph Tapine all went over inside the opening 22 minutes as Canberra raced into a 16-0 lead. 

James Tedesco scored two tries for the Roosters but the Raiders held on, avenging their 2019 Grand Final loss to book a preliminary final against Melbourne Storm next week.

Papalii powered over for the visitors' first try and was then heavily involved as Williams crossed, with Tapine's fine solo effort giving Canberra a comfortable cushion. 

Tedesco finally got the Roosters on the board before the interval and Joseph Manu's converted try then brought them within four. 

However, Tedesco somehow failed to deal with Williams' kick, allowing Jack Wighton to score a fourth Canberra try and that proved pivotal, despite Sydney's full-back going over again.

Ash Handley scored a hat-trick as Leeds Rhinos beat Hull FC 40-22 after Krisnan Inu claimed a treble for in-form Salford Red Devils in a defeat of Huddersfield Giants on Thursday.

Handley is the leading try-scorer in Super League this season after taking his tally to 12 in a victory at Headingley that moved the Rhinos up to fourth place.

Richard Agar's side beat Wigan Warriors to set up a Challenge Cup final showdown with Salford last time out and scored seven tries in an emphatic defeat of Hull, who stepped in to play at short notice due to positive coronavirus tests at Castleford Tigers.

Hull led 10-0 after 16 minutes courtesy of tries from Andre Savelio and Mahe Fonua, but Leeds were six points to the good at half-time thanks to a Jack Walker double either side of Handley's first try.

Scores from James Donaldson and Handley gave them breathing space but tries from Jack Brown and Josh Griffin - both converted by Marc Sneyd - in the space of four minutes gave Hull hope.

The Rhinos were comfortable winners in the end, though, Liam Sutcliffe going over before Handley intercepted a pass and charged 50 metres to complete his hat-trick, Rhyse Martin successfully converting for a sixth time.

Inu was the star of the show in the first game of the double-header, scoring all but four of Salford's points in a 24-16 win over Huddersfield.

The Red Devils have now won five in a row in all competitions after Inu dotted down twice in quick time early in the second half for a treble, also booting eight points, with Chris Atkin scoring Salford's other try.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs were too good for the Newcastle Knights as they pulled off a 46-20 win in an NRL elimination final on Sunday.

The Rabbitohs fell 14-0 behind early at ANZ Stadium before recovering in dominant style to keep their season alive.

Alex Johnston and Tevita Tatola each crossed for two tries for South Sydney in what was their first meeting with the Knights in the finals.

All four of the higher-ranked teams won in week one of the NRL finals, with the Rabbitohs advancing to a meeting with the Parramatta Eels.

The Knights made a flying start and led 14-0 after just 11 minutes.

Hymel Hunt dived over on the right after a Kalyn Ponga pass before Bradman Best scored after Lachlan Fitzgibbon broke the line. Ponga also booted a penalty.

But the end of the half belonged to the Rabbitohs, who scored 20 answered points before the break.

Corey Allan broke through some soft defence before Cody Walker went over.

Johnston then dived over down the left as the Rabbitohs drew level, before Damien Cook sped away down the middle to set up Cameron Murray to give South Sydney a 20-14 half-time lead.

Newcastle made an error-riddled start to the second half and Adam Reynolds' penalty extended the Rabbitohs' lead.

A mistake from Ponga gave South Sydney another opportunity and Tatola reached over to score.

The Rabbitohs added some gloss to the scoreline as Johnston and Tatola crossed to complete their doubles and Cook raced away 80 metres for the sealer, before Hunt scored for the Knights on the siren.

Melbourne Storm marked their 50th NRL finals match with an impressive 36-24 defeat of Parramatta Eels at Suncorp Stadium.

With a 61 per cent win rate from their previous 49 such games, Melbourne were firm favourites to triumph on Saturday as they became the first team to reach a half-century of finals games in the NRL era.

They were made to work by the Eels, though, the visitors scoring two tries in the first 22 minutes through Nathan Brown and Clint Gutherson.

Storm had 61 per cent of the ball in the first half but did not get points on the board until the half-hour mark, when Suliasi Vunivalu went over.

The excellent Ryan Papenhuyzen struck before the interval to level the scores at 12-12, before Josh Addo-Carr's try put them ahead.

Blake Ferguson made it 18 each, touching down from a clever Reed Mahoney kick, but Melbourne promptly seized control as Jesse Bromwich, Brenko Lee and Papenhuyzen all scored in the space of seven minutes to secure a sixth-straight preliminary final.

Shaun Lane got a late consolation as each side now look for good news on the injury front, with Cameron Munster hurting his right knee and the Eels, who face an elimination game next week, losing Ferguson and Maika Sivo.

Canberra Raiders survived a real scare against Cronulla Sharks before surging back to win 32-20 and avoid a shock elimination.

Canberra were firm favourites after dispatching the Sharks 38-28 a week ago but were second best in the first 40 minutes.

The Sharks, the first team in 25 years to reach the finals without a win over a top-eight opponent, were 14-10 to the good at half-time and could have had a more comfortable lead.

Tries from Ronaldo Mulitano and Blayke Brailey, combined with two penalties and a conversion from the boot of Chad Townsend, had Cronulla in a commanding position only for George Williams to intercept and sprint for the line with just two minutes of the half left.

Apparently galvanised, the Raiders assumed control in the second half, Jack Wighton scoring twice in three minutes before further tries from Williams and Elliott Whitehead, whose earlier fumble had allowed Brailey to touch down, ended the contest and set up a rematch with last year's Grand Final victors Sydney Roosters next week.

Sione Katoa's late interception and 90-metre sprint for the line reduced the deficit, but the Sharks' season is over.

Nathan Cleary was the hero with a brilliant hat-trick as minor premiership winners Penrith Panthers beat Sydney Roosters 29-28 to progress in the NRL finals.

A thrilling Qualifying final encounter on Friday saw Penrith reach the Preliminary finals after storming back from going 10 points behind in the early stages.

Cleary scored three tries as well as kicking four conversions and a drop goal, with Josh Mansour and Stephen Crichton also dotting down for the Panthers.

The Roosters, who will now have to face either Canberra Raiders or Cronulla Sharks in the semi-finals, made a fast start and came close to recovering in the latter stages but ultimately fell to a narrow defeat.

Early tries from Josh Morris and Freddy Lussick handed the defending champions the advantage but by the time the match reached the 50-minute mark, the Panthers had scored 28 unanswered points.

James Tedesco and Josh Morris crossed in reply for the Roosters, but Cleary's field goal ensured Penrith prevailed despite Angus Crichton's converted try setting up a tense finish.

Luke Keary tried to level matters with a desperate field goal attempt that fell short from 45 metres, allowing Cleary, the impressive Jarome Luai and the Panthers to celebrate as their fine 2020 season continued.

Wayne Bennett has returned as Queensland head coach for the 2020 State of Origin series, replacing Kevin Walters.

Walters has given up the position to focus on his role as Brisbane Broncos boss following confirmation of his appointment on Wednesday.

Bennett, who is in charge of South Sydney Rabbitohs, has had three previous stints as Maroons coach – in 1986-88, 1998 and 2001-03.

"I love coaching Queensland and I'm extremely humbled to be invited to coach this team again, particularly in light of the challenging circumstances with Kevin moving on to coach the Broncos," the former Australia and England coach said.

"I'm very proud and pleased that I'm still able to do it. State of Origin means so much to the people of Queensland.

"It's been a difficult year for many people and I just want to give something back if I can."

The Maroons are coming off back-to-back series losses to New South Wales, while game one in 2020 is on November 4.

Queensland Rugby League (QRL) managing director Robert Moore said Bennett's experience would be crucial.

"Our people involved in the process to appoint the new coach all viewed Wayne as the right person when we took into consideration the unique circumstances we are now faced with," he said.

"There's no doubt next month's series will present a range of new challenges due to the scheduling change and biosecurity protocols.

"Wayne has the necessary experience and he knows what it takes to win big games at representative level, for both state and country."

Bennett is due to coach the Rabbitohs until the end of 2021, when assistant Jason Demetriou will take his place.

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