On an emotional night at Emerald Headingley, the Rhinos legend was met by a standing ovation as he poignantly addressed the crowd before kick-off.
At the end, after Leeds edged past Huddersfield Giants, fans were still singing for their hero as he continues his battle with motor neurone disease.
On the field, Richard Agar’s side did just enough to triumph in the West Yorkshire derby.
Both sides were missing a raft of first-teamers for myriad reasons - it is commonplace in Super League nowadays and easier not to list - and it was perhaps unsurprising that the contest was far from a classic.
That said, the effort from both sides was obvious, some youngsters on show offered glimpses of their potential - not least Leeds’ impressive 17-year-old forward Morgan Gannon - and there were some nice pieces of class with Kruise Leeming and Rob Lui steering the hosts home.
They remain in sixth spot ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Wigan Warriors and led 18-4 until Zane Tetevano’s late sin-binning but Giants’ season of frustration continues: they have now lost 13 of their 19 outings.
Huddersfield created the first opening when Will Pryce’s intelligent pass saw Leroy Cudjoe slip Sam Wood into space but the rangy winger failed to hold onto the ball just 10m out.
Leeds had already wasted one chance when Jarrod O’Connor broke from halfway but had no support and then Leeming fumbled at a messy play-the-ball.
However, it was a different story the next time they found open space, Callum McLelland dummying on halfway before scything through and leaving Olly Wilson on the ground.
The young half-back advanced and held his line perfectly to give Ash Handley just enough time and space to finish in the 17th minute.
Rhinos then lost Harry Newman, the centre who was on the end of a second big tackle of the evening.
Huddersfield responded when Pryce’s spiraled kick sliced off his boot and bounced in front of Handley.
The Leeds winger recovered to collect but the Giants defence had gained time to rush up and bundle him into touch.
From there, they attacked right and Cudjoe - who had led that tackle - found an offload which came free and bounced into the path of Pryce who scuttled over in the corner to level at 4-4.
They almost scored in the next set, too, with Pryce once more instigating things down Leeds’ right, swift hands seeing Joe Greenwood and Cudjoe put Wood away.
This time he held on before kicking infield but Jack Cogger just failed to ground correctly and the hosts breathed a sigh of relief.
At the other end, Richie Myler did get over the Giants goalline but was bullied back into touch before he could get the ball down while, when Lui’s invention gave King Vuniyayawa chance to thunder close, Luke Yates emerged - as the Giants prop so often does - to snuff out the threat.
Nevertheless, Agar’s side did reclaim the lead in the 34th minute when Lui spotted some space and dinked in a grubber which should have been cleared by Huddersfield but only served to end up in the grasp of Myler following a number of wicked ricochets.
Handley this time converted and the 10-4 interval lead never truly looked like being threatened.
The home started the second period in greater command, exerting more sustained pressure and, though they were only able to muster two Newman penalties after passing his HIA, it seemed to suck the life out of their opponents.
The killer blow then came on the hour mark when Leeming, the former Giants hooker, crabbed across the line 10m out before picking out a perfect pass for Lui to slide over.
Leeming almost twisted over himself soon after when Gannon gave Pryce the slip.
As is so often the case with Ian Watson’s side, they continued to battle and, indeed, Leeds had to play the final eight minutes with 12 men after Tetevano was yellow carded for a late tackle that was perhaps marginally late at best.
It is the sort of challenge that, in the build-up to this game, Agar had bemoaned becoming increasingly penalised.
In the next set, Sam Wood scrambled over in the corner to narrow the deficit and Owen Trout added another with just 16 seconds remaining.
However, there was never any fear of Rhinos completely squandering this lead.
Especially given there was such a special guest in attendance.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler; L Briscoe, Newman, T Briscoe, Handley; McLelland, Lui; Tetevano, Leeming, Thompson, Donaldson, Gannon, O’Connor. Substitutes: Holroyd, Dwyer, Walters,Vuniyayawa.
Huddersfield Giants: Golding; Wood, Cudjoe, Jake Wardle, Senior; Cogger, Pryce; Trout, Peats, Wilson, Jones, Greenwood, Yates. Substitutes: Peteru, Russell, English, Hewitt.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield)