It was the League Leaders versus the Challenge Cup winners at the Totally Wicked Stadium as Grand Final glory was up for grabs in the Betfred Women’s Super League. Castleford were unchanged from their semi-final victory over Wigan while the Rhinos were forced into a change when Shannon Lacey was ruled out with a head injury picked up in their dramatic win at the same venue against Saints five days earlier.
Castleford Tigers 12 Leeds Rhinos 20 at the Totally Wicked Stadium
Castleford made a dream start to the game; Amy Johnson was ruled to have lost the ball on the first carry of the game. Replays indicated that the ball was stolen by Renouf but with field position Cas sucked the Leeds defence in and moved the ball to the right and it was a great finish from Maisie Lumb in the corner. Stanley’s conversion drifted across the face of the post, but the Tigers were on the board.
Leeds poor start continued when Danielle Anderson lost the ball deep inside their own half. After the Leeds defence was again tested by the Tigers attack, they were breached on the last tackle. While expecting a kick, former Rhino Rhiannon Marshall moved the ball down the short side and Lacey Owen crashed over. Stanley was off target again, but the Tigers were in control and eight points to the good.
Leeds rode the Castleford storm and hit back in the 13th minute with a great pass from Hannah Butcher releasing Abby Eatock forty metres out and she backed herself to get on the outside of Tara Stanley to get in at the corner. Hill was unable to convert but the Rhinos had halved the deficit and it stayed that way until half time.
Both sides came out looking for the first score of the second half and there was some desperate defence from both sides keeping the score unchanged. Castleford were inviting pressure though, Roche not finding touch and then Hoyle dropping the ball in her own half.
It was the Rhinos who got the all-important first score of the half with 55 minutes on the clock, a break from Woman of Steel Courtney Hill with a great offload to Fran Goldthorpe. There was a lot of work to do for the young winger, but she found a path through the Castleford defence to touch down. Hill pushed the kick across the face of the posts, and it was all to play for.
Leeds hit the front with fifteen minutes to go, Fran Goldthorpe scooted from dummy half on her own 40 and found a gap in the Castleford defence. A great sidestep saw her get around Tara Stanley and despite the best efforts of Shona Hoyle she managed to touch the ball down despite the TV replay not proving conclusive. Hill added the extras and Leeds were six points to the good.
Three minutes later, the Rhinos were in again. Masie Lumb was being targeted and tormented by Courtney Hill’s kicking game and a second dropped ball gave the Rhinos field position. Hill’s pass putting Ellie Frain into a huge gap and she touched down by the side of the post. Hill converted and the Rhinos were twelve points ahead and finally feeling in control.
Castleford grabbed themselves a lifeline with seven minutes to go, a great kick return from Tara Stanley gave the Tigers field position and with the Rhinos defence in disarray the ball was moved to the right with the pass from Roche sending Woman of Steel nominee Kelsey Gentles in at the corner. Stanley was just off target with the conversion attempt, but the gap was reduced to eight and a grandstand finish was guaranteed.
Leeds hung on to seal a Challenge Cup and Super League double with Fran Goldthorpe named the player of the match. She was quick to praise her teammates, “We’ve put 100% into this, it just shows how much of a team we are” Captain Courtney Hill said “I think we have 20 women of steel out there, and the character we showed was amazing. I had no doubts at 8-0 and we know we can crawl back into games.”
The Rhinos coach Adam Cuthbertson said “It was a brilliant game; we’ve got a great product and I want it to get the exposure it deserves. It was a great performance from both teams, and we got a brilliant win. We need to keep marketing the game right and get a great brand for the Women’s Super League and get more exposure on TV. There is plenty of room for the women’s game to grow.
Castleford: Stanley; Lumb, Eastwood, Owen, Gentles; Roche, Cudjoe; Field, Peach, Hoyle, Dodd, Renouf, Marshall
Interchange: Watts, Lumley, Townend, Slowe
Leeds: Beevers, Nuttall, Eatock, Kerringan, Goldthorpe; Butcher, C Hill; Anderson, Gaines, Johnson, Staveley, Booth, Webster
Interchange: Bennett, Frain, Priim, Oldroyd