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LEEDS RHINOS 68 WIDNES VIKINGS 24
12:04pm Monday 13th August 2012 in Vikings news
A DEPLETED Widnes outfit were buried under an avalanche of tries as they went down 68-24 to Leeds at Headingley.
Despite their obvious talents, the Rhinos are not the most consistent of sides.
With a Wembley appearance on the horizon, the Vikings may have hoped Mr Hyde would show up in the blue and amber.
Instead it was very much Dr Jekyll's turn to put in an appearance.
With a large swathe of his squad watching from the sidelines, Vikings' coach Denis Betts conjured up the unlikely dummy-half rotation of Kurt Haggerty and Grant Gore.
Second row Macgraff Leuluai answered the SOS call to come back from his loan spell at Leigh and he joined young prop Alex Gerrard amongst the substitutes.
It had the hallmark of a tough night's work for Widnes if the Rhinos were to hit their straps and it soon became apparent that was going to be the case.
With Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire puling the strings in midfield, the home side were quickly into their stride.
Three tries in the opening twelve minutes set the tone as Ryan Bailey, Ryan Hall and Shaun Lunt crossed with Sinfield adding the extras on each occasion.
Widnes were having trouble getting hold of possession and keeping it when they did.
Passing the ball forward directly from a tap penalty was one of the more novel ways the Vikings found to cough up the pill.
However, on 17 minutes they registered their first points of the game.
Centre Stefan Marsh hit a short ball at pace and once his initial burst had taken him through the first line of defence 20 metres out, he had no trouble cutting inside Leeeds fullback Zak Hardaker to touch down for a six-pointer.
The respite was brief as the Rhinos produced another three-try burst.
Hardaker backed up a Ben Jones-Bishop for the first, Richard Moore rumbled over from close range for the second and Sinfield and McGuire's brilliant lead up play saw Hall swoop in at the corner to make it 34-6 with less than half an hour on the clock.
Frank Winterstein interrupted the procession when he followed up a Rhys Hanbury break to pull a converted try back.
Still, the last word in the first half went to Leeds as they continued their point-a-minute spree through a powerful burst by Brett Delaney.
Mutterings in the press box during the interval about a possible record defeat didn't come to fruition though as the Vikings came out for the second half in determined mood.
Betts' men proved they could play some champagne rugby of their own and produced one handling move which would have had them screaming their appreciation in Harlem.
They got their reward on 51 minutes when a smart offload from David Allen allowed Cameron Phelps to brush off a couple of would-be tacklers to score.
Two minutes later and Widnes were in again as Marsh and Willie Isa combined superbly up the right flank with the latter taking a return pass to cross for his second try after a move spanning 70 metres.
Patrick Ah Van added his fourth conversion to make it 40-24 and the Vikings went close again as more flowing handling finished with the Rhinos just managing to get to Ah Van's kick into the in-goal before Hanbury pounced.
Midway through the second period and Leeds had still not added to their score but all that changed when Haggerty was controversially sin-binned.
There didn't look to be much in his challenge on McGuire as he kicked the ball towards the Widnes line.
But Leeds prop Darrell Griffin took exception and the resulting conflagration saw Haggerty get his yellow card and the Rhinos a penalty, despite the fact the officials hadn't seemed particualrly concerned with the original challenge.
Ironically, it was Griffin who was first to take advantage of the Vikings being a man down to crash over.
Fellow front-rower Kylie Leuluai followed his lead and second row Stevie Ward dummied his way in to make it 58-24.
Late tries to Hardaker and substitute Jimmy Keinhorst inflated the final score.
Leeds: Hardaker; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Ablett, Hall; Sinfield, MCGuire; Leuluia, Lunt, Griffin, Delaney, Ward, Bailey. Subs: Kirke, Clarkson, Moore, Keinhorst.
Widnes: Phelps; Isa, Marsh, Dean, Ah Van; Craven, Hanbury; Davies, Haggerty, Pickesgill, Winterstein, Allen, Cahill. Subs: Gore, Leuluai, Kite, Gerrard.
Referee: G Stokes.