Sinfield dominates as brave Vikings go down fighting

Widnes 20 - Leeds 42
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The Independent Online

A vastly improved performance from Widnes was not quite enough to help them in their bid to climb out of Super League's relegation zone, or to loosen Leeds's grip at the top. But Widnes showed battling qualities that they have sometimes lacked this season, and hounded their opponents to the end in a way that gives hope for the struggle ahead.

A vastly improved performance from Widnes was not quite enough to help them in their bid to climb out of Super League's relegation zone, or to loosen Leeds's grip at the top. But Widnes showed battling qualities that they have sometimes lacked this season, and hounded their opponents to the end in a way that gives hope for the struggle ahead.

There was an air of foreboding before kick-off, but John Stankevitch threatened to give Widnes a great start with the first break of the match. But that came to nothing and Leeds attacked twice in the first six minutes and scored on both occasions.

Kevin Sinfield created the first with a round-the-corner pass to Jamie Jones-Buchanan that might have been a shade forward, and scored the second when he supported Chev Walker and Ali Lauitiiti.

It looked like being a long night for Widnes. Perhaps it was a little too easy for Leeds, who squandered a third try with a forward pass and twice lost possession to let Widnes off the hook. They were reminded that they were still in a game in the 16th minute when Stankevitch was stopped on the line and Shane Millard forced his way over.

Leeds's discomfort was underlined when Sinfield was sin-binned for holding down Stankevitch after another storming run. At the end of the next set, Widnes were level.

Stephen Myler put in a clever kick which hit the post and Daniel Frame came from marginally onside to touch down. Widnes would have been ahead if Gray Viane had been able to take Myler's cross-kick cleanly.

The contest temporarily became 12-a-side when Julian O'Neill and Leeds's Ryan Bailey were sent to the bin for throwing punches. Leeds got the penalty to carry them towards the Widnes line, where Liam Botham scored from Richard Mathers's long pass.

Leeds scored immediately before half-time, Keith Senior taking Rob Burrow's pass to wrong-foot the defence. They tightened their grip at the start of the second half after Gary Hulse had lost the ball, Gareth Ellis scoring from Mathers's short kick.

Just before the hour, they wore down a tenacious Widnes defence again, Sinfield scoring his second try from Danny Ward's pass.

Aaron Moule and Viane had chances to hit back for Widnes before Millard took Mark Smith's pass to claim his second. Even more remarkably, they scored four minutes later when Richie Barnett went over in the corner.

They were never quite going to be able to do enough to overturn the Rhinos' lead, though, and Jones-Buchanan's second try seven minutes from time eased Leeds through the final minutes. Widnes, however, went off to a deserved ovation.

Widnes: Hulse; Viane, Connolly, Moule, Barnett; Myler, Durbin; O'Connor, Millard, Stankevitch, Cassidy, Frame, Finegan. Substitutes used: Mills, Alcock, O'Neill, M Smith.

Leeds: Mathers; Calderwood, Walker, Senior, Bai; Sinfield, Burrow; Bailey, Dunemann, Jones-Buchanan, Lauitiiti, Hoching, Ellis. Substitutes used: Ward, Scruton, L Smith, Botham.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham).

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