York City Knights fell two points short in their bid to make back-to-back Women’s Challenge Cup finals in a thrilling semi-final with Leeds Rhinos at the Haliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington with the Rhinos coming away 28-26 victors.
Both sides headed into the semi-final match-up having topped their respective groups earlier in the competition and it proved to be a match to remember as both sides went toe to toe in both halves, but ultimately the Knights were left disappointed with their efforts.
The Knights took the lead in the opening minute of the fixture on the back of an error from the Rhinos twenty metres out.
After scoring four tries in the quarter-final win over Oulton Raidettes, Tara Stanley continued her try-scoring antics. After receiving the ball from a scrum she ran past the Rhinos’ defence with ease to touch down and make it 4-0 before converting her own score to make it 6-0.
The Rhinos hit back on the 8th minute with the ball worked out wide to winger Chloe Kerrigan who scuttled over the line to make it 6-4.
An attack down the middle of the Leeds defence saw Lindsay Anfield’s side increase their lead at the 17-minute mark when Grace Field managed to take advantage of good field position, going over from short range to make it 10-4.
The Rhinos, however, would hit the front after a spell that saw them score three unanswered tries at the end of the first half, going into the break with a 20-12 lead. Chloe Kerrigan grabbed her second of the game before Alexandra Barnes went over from close range to bring the Rhinos level before Hanna Butcher went over for the third on 35 minutes.
Lindsay Anfield’s side regathered themselves in the opening five minutes of second half with Sinead Peach making a run for the try line from dummy half, crashing over the line in the 44th minute despite the best efforts of the Rhinos backline. Stanley’s conversion narrowed the gap to 18-20 before kicking a penalty to level up the scoreboard.
However, the Rhinos hit back in the 51st minute with Natasha Gaines being allowed to score in the corner to give the Rhinos a four-point lead.
Sustained pressure from the Knights saw Jasmine Bell power her way over with Tara Stanley converting once again to make it 26-26 to set up a grandstand finish.
The Rhinos sealed the match, however, when Courtney Winfield-Hill converted a penalty kick from in front of the sticks with ten minutes of the game remaining to send Leeds to a Challenge Cup final and hand them a 28-26 victory.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS LINE UP: Tara Stanley, Ash Hyde, Tamzin Renouf, Savannah Andrade, Kelsey Gentles, Georgie Hetherington, Katie Langan, Grace Field, Sinead Peach, Jasmine Bell, Hollie Dodd, Olivia Wood, Rhiannion Marshall
INTERCHANGES: Emma Kershaw, Daisy Sanderson, Olivia Gale, Alishia Clayton
TRIES: Tara Stanley (1) Grace Field (17) Sinead Peach (44) Jasmine Hill (58)
GOALS: Tara Stanley 5/5
LEEDS RHINOS LINE UP: Francesca Goldthorp, Natasha Gaines, Chloe Kerrigan, Sophie Nuttall, Tara Moxon, Georgia Roche, Courtney Winfield-Hill, Aimee Staveley, Keara Bennett, Emma Lumley, Hanna Butcher, Elle Frain.
INTERCHANGES: Dannielle Anderson, Alexandra Barnes, Shannon Lacey, Orla McCallion
TRIES: Chloe Kerrington (8,29) Alexandra Barnes (33) Hanna Butcher (36) Natasha Gaines (52)
GOALS: Courtney Winfield-Hill 3/5