Leeds led 22-0 at half-time and were 28-0 ahead after 50 minutes, but then Rovers staged an unexpected and hugely spirited fightback which produced four converted tries without reply and left the home team hanging on desperately through a frantic finish.
At least Leeds’s Dave Furner could reflect on a third successive home Super League win and two points which lifted his team above Rovers into 10th place on the table.
For his counterpart Tim Sheens it was a third straight league defeat, since the 45-26 home win over Rhinos earlier this month and they are now firmly in the relegation battle, but while the late rally gave him something to build on, the opening period was evidence of why Rovers are in their current plight.
Leeds scored inside two minutes, weathered some heavy pressure and – after doubling their lead – added back-to-back tries in the final moments of the half which left the Robins with too much to do.
“It was a disastrous first half, particularly just around half-time,” admitted Sheens.
“The first set they had they scored, but back-to-back on half time was the thing that took them to a comfortable level and made it difficult.
“Then they scored first in the second half, but we got back into the game.
“We said at half-time the only way we were going to do anything in that game was to win the second half.
“Whether we won it by enough was always going to be arguable, but we needed to win that second half.
“I demanded that from them, that we needed to dig in, win the half of football and we’d assess where we were from there,” he added.
Sheens, who felt Rovers should have had a penalty for interference on the marker defender in the build-up to Leeds’s final try of the opening 40, was encouraged by the way his men rallied in the final half an hour, particularly after two “disastrous” heavy defeats in four days over Easter.
The draining holiday schedule took its toll on both teams and Sheens reflected: “It was always going to be a lottery.
“It came down to who took their chances.
“They did and we came back and got ourselves back in the game with a chance to win it and failed to take that last set.”
Each of Leeds’s last three league games at Headingley have followed a similar pattern, with the hosts building a big lead and then letting the opposition back into it in the second half.
At 28-6 and 28-12 young centre Harry Newman had opportunities to score, or send in supporting players for, what would almost certainly have been a clinching touchdown.
He was also tackled into touch on the first play from a penalty, leading to the Robins’ first try.
“I thought it was a very good performance in the first half, really controlled,” said Furner.
“We knew they would mount a fightback in the second-half, but there were a couple of big momentum swingers; I think we had three play-one errors.
“That’s not directed at anyone, it just shows a bit of inexperience in our team.
“They could have been tries and I reckon the game would have been over.
“We will certainly learn from that second half, but I am liking having the two points and being able to learn off those type of games.”
Leeds’s in-form left-winger Ash Handley scored their opening two tries, taking his tally for the campaign to 12, before, on the stroke of half-time, Tom Briscoe crossed on the other flank and from the restart Matt Parcell burst up the middle and Jack Walker was in support to cross.
Liam Sutcliffe converted two of those and booted a penalty before adding the extras to a Parcell touchdown on 46 minutes.
Weller Hauraki had a strong second half and created the Robins’ first try for Ben Crooks who touched down again when Leeds’s defence failed to deal with Josh Drinkwater’s cross kick.
Those scores looked like mere consolation efforts, but on 74 minutes Drinkwater sent Kane Linnett over and with Ryan Shaw – who had earlier produced a stunning tackle to keep Newman out after a length of the field move begun by Walker – adding a third conversion, the gap was down to 10.
With 71 seconds remaining Hauraki grounded the ball from a kick by McGuire, who drop-kicked the conversion, and Leeds were in full panic mode, but the clock beat Rovers in the end.
Leeds Rhinos: Walker, T Briscoe, Newman, Watkins, Handley, Lolohea, Myker, Oledzki, Dwyer, Singleton, Smith, L Sutcliffe, Merrin. Substitutes: Cuthbertson, Parcell, Donaldson, Trout.
Hull Kingston Rovers: Hall, Shaw, Keinhorst, Crooks, Vaivai, McGuire, Drinkwater, Mulhern, Lunt, Lannon, Tomkins, Linnett, Lawler. Substitutes: Hauraki, Atkin, Harrison, Maria.
Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).