Leeds 38 Widnes 6: Rhinos hit top gear to crush challenge of Vikings

Kallum Watkins goes over for a  Leeds Rhinos try.
Kallum Watkins goes over for a Leeds Rhinos try.
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Adam Cuthbertson marked his home debut with a try as Leeds beat Widnes 38-6 to end a run of four Super League matches without a win at Headingley Carnegie Stadium.

The Australian was the Rhinos’ only off-season arrival and he quickly endeared himself to the Leeds faithful with one of six second-half tries as the hosts scored 32 unanswered points.

It looked like being anything but a routine victory for the Rhinos after a forgettable first period which saw Zak Hardaker and Manase Manuokafoa trade tries.

The Rhinos were a different side after half-time and put Widnes to the sword, recording an 11th successive win over the Vikings courtesy of scores from Ryan Hall, Cuthbertson, Tom Briscoe, Danny McGuire, Kallum Watkins and Kevin Sinfield.

Leeds coach Brian McDermott made two changes to the 17 that left Hull KR with two points, Liam Sutcliffe and debutant Andy Yates replacing Rob Burrow and Kylie Leuluai on the interchange bench.

Danny Craven came in at stand-off for Widnes in place of Kevin Brown, who was ruled out after being forced off with concussion against Wigan, while Patrick Ah Van served his one-game ban for his red card in the season opener.

Both teams were simply content on completing their sets in the opening exchanges, with the first stoppage coming seven minutes in after Jamie Peacock forced an offload which Jamie Jones-Buchanan failed to gather.

That knock-on did not discourage Leeds from keeping the ball alive and they were rewarded for their ambition in the 16th minute. Briscoe collected a grounded pass from Stevie Ward on halfway before breaking the Vikings line and feeding Hardaker to race clear to score under the posts.

The Rhinos’ lead was short-lived as Manuokafoa powered over from close range for a try Jones-Buchanan and Hardaker will not want to watch again in a hurry.

Errors crept in as a tight contest approached half-time so it was a slight surprise when Sinfield turned down the opportunity to go for goal from a penalty 30 metres out with two minutes remaining.

Leeds came out after the break with a spring in their step and hit the front again when Hall powered over in the corner after the ball moved through the hands of McGuire, Carl Ablett and Joel Moon.

The Rhinos were well on top and extended their lead as Cuthbertson charged onto Paul Aiton’s drop-off and through the tackle of Chris Clarkson, on loan at Widnes from Leeds, on his way to the line.

Sinfield missed both conversions but it mattered little as the home side made sure of the two competition points 12 minutes from time through Briscoe’s thrilling 60-metre dash down the right wing.

McGuire soon got in on the act as he pounced on an error from Sinfield’s towering kick before Watkins touched down after taking a pass from Briscoe.

The Leeds winger was again the provider for the final try of the night, captain Sinfield backing up his team-mate to put the gloss on a resounding victory.

“There’s a few positives to take out of it,” coach Brian McDermott said. “It was a tough game, but I am keen to say we made it tougher than it needed to be.

“That sounds a bit disrespectful to Widnes and I don’t mean it that way, but they came with a bit of a dogged mentality.

“I thought the ruck was very slow. They got involved defensively and that slowed us down around the ruck.

“They got penalised a few times and rightly so for making the ruck slow, but that was their tactic and I don’t blame them for that.

“We had to adjust and I thought it took us too long to react to how to play that type of ruck.

“We got involved in an old-style arm wrestle and there was a serious risk of it continuing that way, but at the back end we saw some of the things we could do.”

McDermott added: “Late on we scored some fantastic tries, which probably aren’t realistic – we’re not going to score those tries every single week.

“But in the period before it opened up, I thought we opened up and fashioned a little bit and schemed with each other and scored some decent tries,” said McDermott.

It was Rhinos’ second win of the season and they have now scored seven tries in each of their matches this year.

“I thought we were dogged defensively,” McDermott said. “For 60 minutes it was role reversal from last week, we were very good defensively, but stuttering in attack.

“We will put the two together in the next game, hopefully,” he added.

Leeds: Hardaker, T. Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Cuthbertson, Aiton, Peacock, Ablett, S. Ward, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes: Achurch, Sutcliffe, Singleton, Leuluai.

Widnes: Hanbury, Owens, Phelps, Dean, Marsh, Craven, Mellor, O’Carroll, Carberry, Gerrard, Clarkson, Tickle, Cahill. Substitutes: Manuokafoa, Galea, Isa, Heremaia.

Referee: Robert Hicks (RFL).