Ben Jones-Bishop made hay while the wind blew last night as he marked his first appearance of the season with a brilliant two-try display as unbeaten Leeds claimed a 38-4 victory which burst Widnes’s bubble.
With Leeds coach Brian McDermott having three top-class wingers to choose from in the shape of Tom Briscoe, Ryan Hall and Jones-Bishop, the latter has been forced to bide his time on the touchline this season.
But he was called upon at Headingley Carnegie with Hall rested and, with a very strong wind at his back in the first half, dotted down twice as Widnes failed to get up field in the face of some testing conditions.
Leeds cut loose in the second period and reached an outcome which ended Widnes’s 100 per cent start to the season but so unexpected was their early charge that this defeat is not something they should stew on.
They may wonder, though, why Leeds made such excellent use of the elements when they were working both for and against them, with Jones-Bishop a star performer.
With the 25-year-old in the side Briscoe was switched to the left flank and unfamiliar surroundings may have been the reason for his fourth-minute drop of a Joel Moon pass that, had it been taken, would have set him free.
He was soon shown the way by Jones-Bishop, though, who opened the scoring with 17 minutes gone, finishing off a right-to-left move which went through seven pairs of hands. Kevin Sinfield failed to add the goal but with Widnes unable to get upstream, it mattered little.
The wind was a particular problem to winger Paddy Flynn who was peppered with kicks, but it was on the opposite side to him that Leeds scored their second as Zak Hardaker beautifully held up a pass which Jones-Bishop cashed in, with Sinfield this time on the money.
Rhys Hanbury had Widnes’s best chance of the opening half with a show-and-go break that he could not make good of, and his side were even more up against it four minutes after the break.
Now faced with the wind themselves, Leeds got possession back from a clever Sinfield kick-off and eventually went in as Kallum Watkins’s clever footwork caught Widnes cold.
The conversion was duly tagged on.
Widnes were clearly frustrated by their inability to make something happen and with 28 minutes left they were bemoaning their own defensive skills as Brett Delaney bust through their line and played in Ryan Bailey who barrelled over with a turn of pace rarely seen from a forward.
Speed is expected of Jones-Bishop, though, and he was soon turning on the afterburners to break clear and pass unselfishly inside to Sinfield who did the rest.
The job was well and truly done for Leeds now and their set moves started to flow, with the time-served trio of Sinfield, Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow linking for a try for the latter, before Jamie Jones-Buchanan got in on the act off a kick.
Sinfield converted four of the five scores before taking a breather and it appeared his team-mates did likewise as their seemingly impenetrable defence was breached by Hanbury with six minutes left, but it mattered little.
“It was a good one I thought,” McDermott said. “We had a good test and it was a good contest throughout.
“We showed enough defensive resilience and offensive composure and we needed to, because Widnes always looked like they were going to get in the game,” he said.
“They were in the game in terms of possession and field position and they always looked like threatening to score a couple of tries here and there.
“To post a scoreline like that and keep them down to four points was good.”
Rhinos have conceded 46 points in five games and McDermott added: “That is a reflection of times spent in the job.
“This is my fourth season with the group and while we have changed and adapted things, players get used to a certain way and they get better at the systems and structures and the infrastructure of what we do.”
Centre Joel Moon suffered a hamstring injury early in the first half, but McDermott is hopeful that is not serious.
Forward Jamie Peacock damaged a calf muscle before the break and did not appear in the second period.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Briscoe, Sinfield, McGuire, Leuluai, Burrow, Peacock, Ablett, Ward, Delaney. Substitutes: Aiton, Bailey, Achurch, Jones-Buchanan.
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury, Flynn, Phelps, Dean, Owens, Brown, Mellor, Gerrard, Clarke, Clough, Galea, Tickle, Leuluai. Substitutes: Kavanagh, White, Isa, Lloyd.
Referee: R Hicks (RFL).