Leeds ended a difficult season on a high with a victory over already-promoted Leigh that secured the Rhinos top spot in the Super 8s Qualifiers.
It has been a year of contrasting fortunes for the two clubs, but it was Leeds who came out on top at Headingley to ruin the Centurions’ perfect record in the competition.
The Rhinos opened up an 18-0 lead in an entertaining first half thanks to two tries from Jimmy Keinhorst and one each for Brett Ferres and James Segeyaro.
Sam Hopkins went over just before the break to give Leigh hope, but quickfire tries from Ashton Golding and Joel Moon put Leeds out of sight.
Matty Dawson crossed but Tom Briscoe responded for Leeds and Moon had the last word with a drop goal in a game too far for Leigh, who will certainly make their presence felt in Super League next year.
Twelve months ago Leeds went into the final weekend of the season aiming to wrap up the League Leaders’ Shield – which they duly did thanks to Ryan Hall’s dramatic last-second try at Huddersfield.
But the Rhinos have experienced a spectacular fall from grace since completing the treble with a win voer Wigan in the Grand Final.
Despite securing their Super League status in the Qualifiers with two games to spare, Leeds were still striving for their best form and went into the clash with Leigh on the back of a defeat at Huddersfield in which they lost four more players to injury.
Jamie Jones-Buchanan captained the Rhinos in the absence of Rob Burrow, but he was trudging off the field just four minutes in after being shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
Kallum Watkins, who had never kicked a goal for Leeds, was handed the kicking duties and was successful with four.
Leeds Rhinos: Golding, T. Briscoe, Watkins, Keinhorst, Hall, Sutcliffe, Moon, Singleton, Segeyaro, Jones-Buchanan, Ferres, Ward, Cuthbertson. Substitutes: Handley, Hallas, Smith, Jordan-Roberts.
Leigh Centurions: Smith, Brown, Worthington, Tonga, Dawson, Ridyard, Drinkwater, Moimoi, Higham, Weston, Dixon, Maitua, Hock. Substitutes: Hansen, Hopkins, Burns, Tickle.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (RFL).