Leeds head coach Brian McDermott refused to blame the club’s trip to Australia after his depleted side suffered their first defeat of the Super League season at Widnes.
The champions arrived at Halton Stadium without 12 first team players, including seven of the team that were beaten 38-4 by Melbourne in last weekend’s World Club Challenge.
Leeds were leading 6-4 at half-time thanks to Brad Dwyer’s try but a team featuring youngsters and players battered by the Storm inevitably tired and Widnes took advantage to claim a 23-6 victory.
The bulk of the Rhinos squad touched back down in England last Sunday and McDermott insisted they had enough time to recover for the game.
“We haven’t been down a mine digging coal,” he said.
“Everyone talks about the travel but it’s not the worst thing in the world.
“We’ve got a million staff taking care of them and while it would have had an effect and I wasn’t expecting a 10 out of 10 performance, that was still disappointing.
“The late changes were the disruptive ones. Ryan Hall with his tonsillitis and Tom Briscoe with a sciatic problem in his back. They were Saturday when they pulled out and we’ve then got no time to prep.
“But even taking all that into account, it was a disappointing performance.”
Leeds have now lost on their last four visits to Widnes and McDermott admitted his side played into the home team’s hands once again.
“We kept it tight in the first half against a Widnes side who, with the greatest respect, don’t spend much on their squad and are used to being in battles,” he added.
“We ended up playing a version of the game which suited them, and you could easily go back to what we’ve said here in each of the last three years.
“It’s always the same scenario when we’ve lost here – we’ve got an injury list and they’ve got some momentum – and it went to script.
“But they’re a tough team who don’t give in.”
Krisnan Inu scored two of Widnes’ four tries as they earned their first victory since the opening weekend.
“It’s a great win,” said Vikings head coach Denis Betts.
“You’ve got to give Leeds credit because they’re a champion side and you’ve got to play well to beat them.
“We made some mistakes in the first half which would have hurt us in the past.
“But we’ve got a bit more resilience in us this year. We kept churning out the things we do and we eventually got a well-deserved result.”