After the defeat at Warrington Wolves in April, they were again undone by one of their bogey clubs, Widnes Vikings, whose 28-20 win was their fourth victory in five meetings with Leeds.
Rhinos never really got going. Some of that may have been due to fatigue, though Widnes were also backing-up from Friday, but credit has to go to Widnes’ magnificent defence.
The hosts were inspired by Rangi Chase on his home debut. Winger Ryan Ince, who had a loan spell at Hunslet earlier in the season, scored two tries, including the game-breaker late on.
The first half was nip and tuck with both sides scoring three tries, but the lone conversion – by Liam Sutcliffe – sent Leeds in at the break with a two-point lead.
It could have been worse for the visitors as Widnes wasted a series of opportunities by being unable to complete their sets.
Once they got their act together in that department – and Chase began to find his feet – they caused Rhinos problems.
Leeds made the most of their limited chances to open a 10-point lead around the half-hour mark, but back-to-back tries got Widnes back into it.
Rhinos had what looked like a valid try ruled out soon after the break and there was little between the teams until Widnes edged ahead with a converted touchdown 19 minutes from time.
Leeds regained the Leeds with 11 left and should have been able to close it out, but two late tries sealed the points for the home team.
They didn’t play like a bottom-of-the-table side and, though some controversial calls went against Leeds, the home team deserved their win.
The game started slowly, but got increasingly frantic. Leeds went ahead after 11 minutes when Ash Handley crossed for an unconverted try from Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s long pass, though the foundation for the score was Brad Singleton’s superb off-load to Adam Cuthbertson.
Handley was one of three players drafted into the 17. He was at centre, allowing Sutcliffe to start at full-back in place of the injured Ashton Golding (hamstring).
Leeds were also without half-back Danny McGuire, who damaged a foot against Warrington and knee injury victim Brett Delaney.
Rob Burrow took over as captain and started at scrum-half and Mitch Garbutt returned after a three-game lay-off on the bench.
Also among the substitutes was Josh Walters, who had not been named in the initial 19 and did not get on.,
Teenager Alex Sutcliffe, who had been in contention for his Super League debut, was ruled out due to illness.
The other unused member of the 19 was Jack Ormondroyd. He played for Featherstone Rovers on Saturday in their defeat by London Broncos at the Kingstone Press Championship Summer Bash and warmed-up as 18th man yesterday.
Carl Ablett and Keith Galloway both remained on the casualty list following knee surgery, but could be available to face Leigh Centurions at Headingley on Friday. On this evidence, they are needed.
Stevie Ward is likely to miss that game after being charged with grade B punching in the win over Warrington. Jimmy Keinhorst (hand) remains on the long-term injury roll.
Widnes levelled on 20 minutes when Rhys Hanbury touched down. Lloyd White, though, dropped the ball in the set from the restart and Leeds nosed back in front through Kallum Watkins, after Joel Moon had run the ball on the last. Sutcliffe added the extras.
Soon afterwards Ward forced his way over from close range. The ball hit the ground twice in the preceding set – out of the grasp of Brett Ferres and then Watkins – but the tackle count was restarted both times.
That was on 30 minutes, but the gap was cut just three later when Ince dived over spectacularly at the corner from an off-load by Chris Bridge.
It looked as though the winger may have lost the ball in the act of touching down, but the officials saw nothing wrong and the try was given.
Bridge had received a long pass from Chase and the former Castleford man tormented Leeds again in the next set.
His kick to the opposite flank was dropped – backwards according to the officials – by Charly Runciman and Corey Thompson picked up to go over. Bridge couldn’t convert any of Widnes’ first-half touchdowns so Leeds held a 14-12 lead. Rhinos should have gone at least four points further ahead at the start of the second half when Moon crossed after his own kick bounced away from Ince and Bridge.
Referee Scott Mikalauskas was going to give it, but his in-goal judge had spotted a knock-on and the touchdown was ruled out. That looked a poor decision and infuriated the Rhinos fans behind the posts, who were already seething over the Ince and Thompson tries.
Widnes turned down a simple opportunity to level the scores when Jones-Buchanan was penalised for interference on White in front of Leeds’ posts.
Watkins got over the line at the other end on a free play, but the ball was knocked out before he could touch down.
With 20 minutes left Widnes again turned down a kickable penalty, after a dangerous tackle by Parcell and Baldwinson on Jack Buchanan, but this time the tactic paid off as Aaron Heremaia nipped over from acting-half and Bridge added the extras to make it 18-14.
Hall made a brilliant tackle to shove Ince into touch before he could get the ball down at the corner. That could have been curtains, but almost immediately Cahill lost the ball coming away from Widnes’ line, Baldwinson reacted quickly to pick up and he sent Cuthbertson crashing over.
Sutcliffe’s conversion made it 20-18 and he could have sealed it, but knocked on in front of the posts and in the next set Ince scooted past Sutcliffe to score his second.
Bridge converted, Widnes received a penalty from the re-start and, at the end of that set, Chase slid a kick over the line and Thompson touched down.
Referee Mikalauskas was in charge of Leeds for only the second time, the first being the Easter Monday home win over Widnes. The penalty count finished 10-7 in Widnes’ favour (4-4 in the first half).