27th July 2019, 18:55 | womens_rugby_league
Leeds and Castleford served up an all-Yorkshire thriller in the first of the Coral Challenge Cup triple-header at the University of Bolton Stadium in front of over 4000 fans – a record for a Women’s Rugby League game in the United Kingdom.
A breakaway Courtney Hill try was the difference and sent Leeds on their way to a second consecutive Women’s Challenge Cup, as the Rhinos put an end to Castleford’s unbeaten run in 2019.
Rhiannion Marshall opened the scoring after 17 minutes, the Castleford loose-forward burst through a gap and was too strong for the chasing pack as she raced to the corner. Tara Stanley couldn’t add the touchline conversion, but the Tigers earned an early 4-0 advantage.
Fran Goldthorp hit back almost immediately for the Rhinos, latching onto a cross-field kick from Courtney Hill to collect in the air and crash down over the whitewash. Hill’s conversion was on target as Leeds gained the lead.
Leeds extended their lead just moments later as 17-year-old Caitlin Beevers finished off an excellent individual run, rounding the Castleford right-edge to dive over in the corner.
The proceedings swung back in Castleford’s shortly afterwards, Marshall pressured the line once more but it Tamzin Renouf who got the Tigers back in It, running onto a pass in space to score under the uprights. Tara Stanley’s conversion levelled the scores at 10-10.
The two teams battled heard in the second half looking to edge themselves in front and it was Leeds who did so on the hour-mark. Danielle Anderson broke the line and found Hill in support to score a crucial try for her side. The captain followed with a successful conversion to give Leeds a six-point lead with twenty minutes remaining.
A hearty finish to the final saw Castleford push hard for an answer and to keep their hopes alive but the Leeds defence were equal to the Tigers’ threat. Hill tried a one-pointer with the clock ticking down, only to see it edge just wide of the posts, but it was the Rhinos who would lift the trophy once more.
Lindsay Anfield saw her Castleford Tigers side fall to their first defeat of the year, and with a smile on her face insists she is not too hung up on the result: “It’s a disappointing result. Last year I felt like we were the better team until the last 10 minutes, but today I thought Leeds were the better team right from the start.”
Despite the loss, Castleford did make history as Hollie Dodd, who celebrated her 16th birthday only yesterday, became the youngest ever play to start in a Challenge Cup Final. Speaking on her number 28, Anfield added: “We threw her in on the wing, and she’s not a winger; she’s a second row and likes to play in the middle. She’s only trained with us for a few months and hasn’t played any games, so the wing was a good place for her to start. Leeds identified that and kicked to her a few times, they got a little bit of joy but I thought she held her own and I was really impressed with her today. I don’t think she particularly let the pressure get to her and she was one of our better players today.”
Adam Cuthbertson adds a third Challenge Cup win to his tally, once as a player with Leeds Rhinos in 2015 and now twice as a coach of Leeds Rhinos Women in 2018 & 2019. Speaking on the game, he said: “With these finals, it’s not about the elaborate big plays, it’s not about the shifts, it’s about willingness to keep going. You’ll get opportunities in these big games, it’s just whether you capitalise on them or not.
“I think the try Courtney scored from the Dannielle Anderson break, that was nothing that we’d practiced, that was just pure heart to run through the opposition and then the desire to turn up for your team mate. You coach all these little things, but you need the girls to believe in it and keep going. Those moments are what make games such as that.”
Captain Courtney Hill, was named player of the match after notching two goals, assisting the first try and scoring the winning try to retain The Rhinos’ silverware for another year. On her involvement, Hill said: “I think momentum is a funny thing in this game, we didn’t want to give them too much of it and particularly early on in the game. I knew there was always going to be something on out there in Fran Goldthorp, so kicking to her is always quite nice. I kick it and sit back and watch what happens, it was nice to reply.
“From there it was a bit of a tug of war at times. I’m just really proud of the girls to hold on, particularly through that last 15 minutes when we snuck our noses out in front, to see out the game with pure heart.”
Tries: F.Goldthorp, C.Beevers, C.Hill
Goals: C.Hill 2/3
Tries: R.Marshall, T.Renouf
Goals: T.Stanley 1/2