With Leeds Rhinos, St Helens, Leigh Leopards, Hull KR, Halifax Panthers and Leigh Leopards all headed down to Wembley Stadium for a triple header of two Challenge Cup Finals and the 1895 Cup Final, a big attendance was expected.
The attendance was expected to be between 60,000 and 65,000 and be the highest attendance since the 2019 final between Warrington Wolves and St Helens.
However, in the end there were only 58,000 fans in attendance but this was largely down to what was described as “horrific problems” on the M1 with 20,000 fans not there for kick off between Hull KR and Leigh.
However, that attendance may have been a shame but the attendance for the women’s game wasn’t.
It was 8,338 (recorded at 1pm) and broke the record for a women’s game which was 5,888 at Elland Road.
It was a great game. The Rhinos forced an early goal line drop out but it was pressure from St Helens that paid dividends as full-back Ruby Enright knocked on to give the Saints territory.
From that Tara Jones forced herself over to score the first ever try in a Women’s Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, and just minutes later Amy Taylor broke on the right wing and crossed over to double the lead to 12-0.
The bad news continued for the Rhinos with confirmation that prop Dannielle Anderson had left the field with a knee injury being swiftly followed by a huge break by Jodie Cunningham. That set up the territory to allow a quick play the ball and Eboni Partington to score in the corner making it 16-0.
After those opening 20 minutes it looked like the game could be a whitewash but a key tackle by Caitlin Beevers seemed to trigger a response from the Rhinos, and it was her high claim that set up Sophie Robinson to pull one back in the corner.
The Rhinos thought they’d scored another just before the break but captain Hanna Butcher’s try wasn’t given and the video referee couldn’t see enough to overturn that call, meaning Leeds went in 16-4 down.
Leeds came out of the dressing rooms firing with Caitlin Beevers continuing her impressive performance as she broke from well inside her own half to race the length of the field to score.
The conversion was missed and Saints punished that as they fired back in minutes, a Faye Gaskin kick over the top was collected by Shona Hoyle who got on the scoresheet to re-establish the 12 point lead to 20-8.
Taylor knocked a penalty over with 15 minutes to go to stretch the lead to 14 points and more than two converted tries.
The final 15 minutes followed the same vein of the previous 10 in gritty and hard rugby league epitomised by tough defence for both sides.
Jodie Cunningham was confirmed as the Player of the Match, the England skipper, having shone in the first half and helped to control the match in the later stages.