Leeds 8-18 St Helens: Saints win back-to-back Challenge Cups in front of record crowd

Steven Hughes
St Helens Women's Challenge Cup rugby league

St Helens have won a second straight Challenge Cup, and a fourth straight trophy overall after a hard-fought victory over Leeds.

The match was played in front of a record crowd at Elland Road. Just under 6,000 people were in attendance at the home of Leeds United.

Leeds made three changes coming into this game after their win over York. Caitlin Beevers, Sam Hulme and Elychia Watson all returned to the side. They replaced Sophie Nuttall, Tara Moxon and Elle Frain.

Meanwhile, St Helens made one change to the side that beat Featherstone in the semi-finals. Emily Rudge was able to return on the bench in place of Pip Birchall.

Match Report

The Rhinos drew first blood after 15 minutes. Zoe Hornby was played into a gap and broke 20 metres to score by the posts. This was the first try Saints had conceded in the Challenge Cup this year. Courtney Winfield-Hill added the conversion to open up a six-point lead.

The Rhinos then had a chance to double their lead. Georgia Roche was able to pluck a kick out of the air, but the ball was stripped one-on-one as she was getting the ball down on the ground.

That would prove costly, as Saints got themselves back in it just before the break. Leah Burke managed to take in a kick from Zoe Harris to score in the corner. Beth Stott was off-target with the conversion attempt, meaning they still trailed by two points.

However, the last word of the half would go to Leeds. After a high tackle by Chantelle Crowl, Winfield-Hill took the two points on offer and she got it.

HT- Leeds 8-4 St Helens

The first try of the second half felt crucial, and it went the way of the defending champions. Tasha Gaines couldn’t deal with a bouncing ball, and Eboni Partington was alert to get to the ball and ground it. Stott was again off-target with the conversion attempt, meaning the scores stayed level.

Just past the hour, Leeds missed a great chance to put themselves back in front. After a late hit close to the try-line, Winfield-Hill once again elected to take the two points, and put the kick wide of the posts.

That proved costly, as Saints broke up the other end of the field and scored to take the lead for the first time. Jodie Cunningham got the ball, and was able to step inside and get the ball down.  Stott was able to convert, to put St Helens ahead by six points.

With three minutes left, Saints made the game safe. Amy Hardcastle got the ball out wide, and her delayed pass found Partington, who went over for her second try. Stott’s conversion attempt went across the posts.

After winning the treble in 2021, St Helens added the first trophy of 2022 to their cabinet now as well. For both teams, attention now turns to the Women’s Super League.

FT- Leeds 8-18 St Helens

Team News

Leeds: Goldthorp, Gaines, Butcher, Beevers, Hulme, Roche, Winfield-Hill, Anderson, Bennett, Staveley, Kerrigan, Watson, Hornby. Subs: Lumley, Lacey, McCallion, Barnes.

Tries: Hornby

Goals: Winfield-Hill 2/3

St Helens: Rotherham, Partington, Hardcastle, Roberts, Burke, Stott, Harris, I.Rudge, Jones, Crowl, Travis, Williams, Cunningham. Subs: Whitfield, Sandham, E.Rudge, Woosey.

Tries: Burke, Partington (2), Cunningham

Goals: Stott 1/4

Women’s Challenge Cup Final 2022: Leeds and St Helens squads and talk from both camps