7th July 2019, 18:46 | ChallengeCup
The contrast between the two Coral Women’s Challenge Cup semi-finals could not have been starker, but the outcome is the same as 2018 – a Castleford-Leeds cup final.
Cup holders Leeds Rhinos stunned St Helens with two tries in quick succession late in the second half, overturning a 10-8 deficit to win a titanic clash 16-10 at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
East of the Pennines a patched-up Wakefield Trinity side were no match for Super League leaders Castleford Tigers. The Tigers proved irresistible at the Mobile Rocket Stadium, running in 19 tries and rattling up a century of points.
The Coral Women’s Challenge Cup Final will be played at the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday 27 July – part of a unique triple-header alongside the men’s Challenge Cup semi-finals between Warrington Wolves and Hull FC, and St Helens and Halifax.
St Helens 10 Leeds Rhinos 16
St Helens hosted Leeds Rhinos in Sunday’s early kick-off tie – and what an incredible match it was to feature live on Our League.
Both sides named strong squads prior to the game, though perhaps crucially St Helens were without influential playmaker Faye Gaskin who had slotted over a combined total of 18 goals in their previous two Challenge Cup ties.
Neither side had conceded even a single try in the competition en route to the semi-finals, so it was no surprise to see defences firmly on top during a scoreless opening quarter.
Leeds certainly had their chances during that period, but twice squandered golden opportunities after kicks had bounced kindly for them. In the end it was Saints who broke the deadlock on 20 minutes when Jodie Cunningham darted over from dummy half, to the delight of most of the 734 spectators inside the Totally Wicked Stadium. Her effort was converted by Beth Stott to give St Helens a 6-0 lead.
The home side extended their advantage to 8-0 shortly after through a Beth Stott penalty following a ball steal, but the Rhinos closed the gap just before half time when Shannon Lacey powered her way over for an unconverted try.
Both sides began the second half as cagily as the first, with the pressure of knock out rugby clearly affecting both sides. St Helens notched themselves further ahead through the boot of Beth Stott, after Hannah Butcher held down a rampaging Emily Rudge a little too long and found herself despatched to the sin bin.
But 10-4 looked a precarious advantage for St Helens – even against 12 players – and when Sophie Nutall crossed in the right corner that lead was cut to 10-8. Courtney Hill then stunned St Helens with a towering touchline conversion to level the scores and just three minutes later the Rhinos were in again.
Stott’s attempted field goal failed to trouble the uprights, but worse still it was gathered by Rhinos speedster Caitlin Beevers who ran the full length of the pitch to score what proved to be a breath-taking winning try.
WHAT A TRY! 👏@CaitlinBeevers1 goes the length of the field to give @LeedsRhinos the advantage!— The Coral Challenge Cup (@TheChallengeCup) July 7, 2019
Is that enough to book their place at Bolton?
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Saints’ impressive Emily Rudge almost brought her side back into contention during a frantic finale, but the Rhinos held on to keep one hand on the trophy which they will defend at Bolton.
Adam Cuthbertson applauded his side’s patience in the victory: “That game was an emotional rollercoaster. I try to coach the girls in having the ability to just keep turning up and that’s all they did today.
“St Helens were unbelievable. They were good on the ball and kept asking questions of us. That really could’ve gone any way, we were lucky to get the win in the end with two nice bits of play.”
Wakefield Trinity 0 Castleford Tigers 100
Castleford booked their place in the final in style, as they put on a relentless display against Wakefield Trinity.
The Tigers ran in nineteen tries and notched a century of points without reply to put themselves in the Challenge Cup final for a second successive year.
Castleford showed just why they are unbeaten in 2019 as they ran in 10 first half tries, treating more than 900 spectators to more than a point-a-minute spectacle at the Mobile Rocket Stadium.
Grace Field, Frankie Townend and a Tara Stanley double, all converted made it 24-0 after 20 minutes of play, and Castleford showed no sign of stopping there as Kelsey Gentles, Townend, Emma Lumley, Georgia Roche and Sinead Peach (2) all crossed the whitewash to give the Tigers an incredible 58-0 half time lead.
A cup final spot at the University of Bolton Stadium was already in the bag, yet Lindsay Anfield’s side continued to showed their prowess as they went on to score a further eight tries in the second forty. Frankie Townend grabbed her third and fourth of the afternoon, with both 17-year old Maisie Lumb and Tara Stanley both claiming hat-tricks.
Castleford made it 90-0 as Shona Hoyle crashed over, Claire Garner adding the extras to increase the Tigers outstanding score, before Georgia Roche and Esme Reynolds added to the scoresheet, completing a 100-0 thrashing.
Lindsay Anfield is looking forward to a replay of last year’s final: “I’m very happy with the way our girls performed today. They now have their sights on the final and a chance at getting redemption from 12 months ago.
“It’s been a long time since Castleford, as a club, have won silverware so hopefully we can take a good number of travelling support with us to Bolton.”
More than 1,600 spectators saw the two semi-finals and the RFL will be allocating a share of triple-header tickets specifically to the competing teams in the Coral Women’s Challenge Cup Final.
Kick-off times at Bolton on Saturday 27 July are as follows
Coral Women’s Challenge Cup Final. Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers – 11.15am
Coral Challenge Cup Semi-Final. Warrington Wolves v Hull FC – 2pm
Coral Challenge Cup Semi-Final. St Helens v Halifax – 4.30pm