Captain Kevin Sinfield's dislocated thumb brought to an end his 97-match run and his stand-off role was taken by teenager Liam Sutcliffe, who scored the game-clinching try, while winger Ben Jones-Bishop made a fairytale return to the Leeds side after recovering from an eight-month lay-off with a blood clot on his lung with one of the Rhinos' six tries.
Long-serving scrum-half Rob Burrow touched down twice and winger Ryan Hall, who also crossed on two occasions, scored his 150th try for the club. Widnes ran in five tries themselves with Joe Mellor and Rhys Hanbury scoring two tries apiece and Kevin Brown going over.
Rhinos gave a debut to England academy captain Jordan Baldwinson and had in their line-up two more 18-year-olds with just two Super League appearances between them as well as four players backing up from Friday's England-Exiles game. And It looked straightforward for Brian McDermott's men as they raced into a 12-0 lead inside eight minutes.
Burrow shot through a gap and had the pace to round full-back Hanbury for the game's opener while Jones-Bishop palmed the ball back from Burrow's high kick and regained possession from Jimmy Keinhorst to touch down.
Zak Hardaker converted both tries before Widnes scrum-half Mellor grabbed the first of his two tries, finishing off a break through the middle by winger Patrick Ah Van, who had been put into a hole in the Leeds defence by Ben Kavanagh's clever offload.
Burrow restored his side's 12-point lead on 22 minutes, finishing off a break by Sutcliffe, but the battling Vikings drew level with two further tries in two minutes. Mellor scooped up the ball from Ian Kirke's handling error and sprinted 80 metres for his second try before Macgraff Leuluai broke clear to get stand-off Brown over.
Jack Owens kicked his third conversion to tie the scores and it stayed that way until half-time. Widnes were forced to defend desperately at the start of the second half before stunning their hosts on the counter-attack to go in front for the first time on 48 minutes.
Brown's delayed pass got his brother-in-law Gareth Hock, back after a four-match ban, into space and he got Hanbury over at the corner for the first of his two tries. The lead lasted only five minutes, however, as second rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan forced his way over from dummy half for Leeds' fourth try and Hardaker added the goal.
Centre Joel Moon then gathered Burrow's high kick for Paul McShane to get Hall over for his landmark try before he added another seven minutes later to open up a 10-point gap. A tense finish was on the cards when Hanbury beat three defenders on a thrilling 80-metre run for his second touchdown - but Sutcliffe's try made sure of the points.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rhys Hanbury
- Rob Burrow
- Joe Mellor