Leeds Rhinos 8-18 St Helens Women’s Challenge Cup Final

The two best teams currently in the women’s game took centre stage at Elland Road to begin a festival of brilliant Challenge Cup rugby.

Between them they shared seven of the last nine major trophies in the women’s game going into today’s decider including victories in the last three Challenge Cup Finals. This itself was a repeat of a major final but not a cup final. The two met in last year’s Super League Grand Final as the Saints wrapped up the treble in Leeds’ back yard defeating them at Headingley to wrestle away the Super League title.

Again playing in the city of Leeds, the Rhinos had home advantage but Saints fans hoping to see both their men and women triumph gave the reigning cup holders a huge boost cheering them on. However, it was the Rhinos who would score first through a rampaging run from Zoe Hornby who would finish the game with the Player of the Match Award.

The powerful forward had threatened the Saints earlier in the game and this time finished off a superb break to give Leeds the lead with former Woman of Steel Courtney Winfield-Hill converting to make it 6-0.

They were the first points Saints have conceded in 2022 and their steely defence would be key for the rest of the half as they repelled the Rhinos and 20 minutes later Leah Burke scored in acres of space from a lovely kick to the corner. The conversion was missed but Saints had closed the gap in a poor first half by their standards but they did fall further behind at the break thanks to a Winfield-Hill penalty.

Leeds had dominated the first 40 but only had a four point lead to show for it and it soon became clear that the start of the second half would be vital as the pendulum swung this way and that. Both sides made half breaks with Leeds very nearly scoring early in the second half down the left edge only for brilliant cover defence to deny them.

That was a key moment in the contest as minutes later Eboni Partington levelled the game with Saints’ second try and from there it was one way traffic as the reigning Super League Champions went up the gears to wrap up a second consecutive Challenge Cup.

The decisive try came in the 65th minute after Leeds had missed the chance to take the lead with a penalty. Reigning Woman of Steel Jodie Cunningham then forced her way over to give the Saints a 14-8 lead.

Then in the dying moments of the game, Partington got her second to conclude an 18-8 win over the Rhinos and ensure a second successive Challenge Cup for the Saints women.

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