Leeds booked their place in the last 16 of the Carnegie Challenge Cup with a 30-20 victory over the Crusaders in the only all-Super League fourth-round tie but it came at a cost with injury to three key players.
The Rhinos lost full-back Brent Webb after just two minutes with a leg injury while stand-off Danny McGuire, who went on to replace him, hobbled off 11 minutes later with a quad muscle injury.
McGuire is just three games back from a knee re-construction which forced him to sit out the opening three months of the season and is now facing another enforced lay-off.
Leeds also lost second rower Chris Clarkson with an ankle injury nine minutes into the second half but they had managed to get themselves into a winning position by then and any prospect of a Crusaders comeback was ended with the 59th-minute dismissal of second rower Hep Cahill.
The New Zealander, who had scored the game’s opening try, was shown the red card by referee Steve Ganson for kicking out at Leeds scrum-half Rob Burrow.
It was routine in the end for the Rhinos but their place in the fifth-round draw had looked in some doubt after their early injury blows caused widespread disruption.
They were trailing 10-0 at that stage and, with just two substitutes available to coach Brian McDermott for the last hour, the small but vociferous band of Crusaders fans were understandably in high spirits.
Iestyn Harris’ men, who lost 34-16 to Leeds in the Super League at Headingley on Easter Monday, threatened to cause an upset with two tries in the first 12 minutes.
Cahill pounced for the first after Michael Witt’s high kick eluded both wingers, Ryan Hall (Leeds) and Stuart Reardon (Crusaders), while scrum-half Rhys Hanbury got the second following a clever kick ahead from impressive winger Elliott Kear.
But, inspired particularly by Jamie Peacock and Burrow, Leeds gradually got on top and scored three unanswered tries to establish an 18-10 lead by half-time.
Unheralded second rower Jay Pitts produced a storming break to set up the position for lively replacement hooker Paul McShane to go over from dummy half and then took a pass from Burrow to race over himself.
The pivotal moment came after half-an-hour when Hall raced back to pull off a stunning trysaving tackle on Crusaders full-back Clinton Schifcofske following a break out of defence by Kear.
Leeds made the most of the escape, working their way to the other end of the field, where prop Luke Burgess’ offload from the tackle enabled Burrow to scoot away for a trademark try.
With Sinfield adding all three conversions, the Rhinos led by eight points and they made it 24-10 within two minutes of the re-start when Hall took Lee Smith’s long pass to cross at the corner.
Kear gave the visitors renewed hope when he took Frank Winterstein’s cut-out pass to score his first try for the Wrexham club but Cahill’s sending-off effectively sealed the outcome.
Loose forward Peter Lupton added a fourth try for the Welsh side on 69 minutes but Leeds had the last say when the hard-working Danny Buderus’ efforts were rewarded with a try, with Kevin Sinfield kicking his fifth goal from as many attempts.
Leeds: Webb; Smith, Delaney, Senior, Hall; Sinfield, Burrow; Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Pitts, Clarkson, Ablett.
Subs: McGuire, Burgess, Kirke, McShane.
Tries: McShane, Pitts, Burrow, Hall, Buderus Goals: Sinfield 5
Crusaders: Schifcofske; Reardon, Mellars, Thomas, Kear; Witt, Hanbury; O’Hara, White, Moore, Cahill, Winternstein, Lupton.
Subs: Bryant, Flower, Dudson, Sammut.
Tries: Cahill, Hanbury, Kear, Lupton Goals: Schifcofske
Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens).