Leeds Rhinos 38 Widnes Vikings 6 (Half-time 6-6)
The final score line slightly flattered the Rhinos on an evening when they had to rely heavily on their much-vaunted star players, especially among the backs, to dig themselves out of the hole that they were in at half-time. Coach Brian McDermott was not fooled by the apparently comfortable victory afterwards, preferring to focus on what he feels needs to be put right before their next game in the #Super League.
Leeds have suffered with their home form of late, dating back to the conclusion of last season, and held the unwanted statistic of having lost their last four games at Headingley prior to meeting the Vikings.
Such poor form often adds to the pressure on a side and it was almost tangible in the air last night, as the home fans had to endure a scratchy performance by their men in the first-half. Indeed, as they went into the break all-square at 6-6, they would not have predicted the events that occurred in the second forty minute period.
With points at a premium in the first-half, full-back Zak Hardaker's try for the Rhinos was matched by Manase Manuokafoa's effort for Widnes. It was a different story after the break though, as Leeds seemed to find a new lease of life, much in keeping with their previous display against Hull KR. They stopped Widnes from adding to their own score, while supplementing their own tally to the tune of 32 unanswered points, as the game took on a decidedly one-sided view.
There were tries for Ryan Hall, Adam Cuthbertson, Tom Briscoe, Danny McGuire, Kallum Watkins and Kevin Sinfield during the second period, as the attack clicked into gear at last and stretched their advantage out of sight. The home crowd breathed a huge sigh of relief, but must have wondered why it took them quite so long..
McDermott offered some explanation for the steady first period: "Widnes came with a bit of a dogged mentality. They slowed us down around the ruck." As a result, it took some time for the Rhinos to adjust and to work out how to counter their approach, but their coach will have at least been pleased that they found their feet before the end.
Victory gave Leeds back to back wins at the start of the new campaign, after the scintillating comeback away at Hull KR on match day one. McDermott will know, however, that they need to play much more consistently over the full eighty minutes, if they are to challenge long-term in the league. The final result was oddly very similar to last season's corresponding fixture, when the score was 38-4 in the Rhinos' favour. #Rugby