It was the ladies time to shine as the Leeds Rhinos took on the Castleford Tigers in the Ladies Challenge Cup final from the University of Bolton Stadium in the eighth Challenge Cup Final, a repeat of the 2018 final which the Rhinos won by 20-14.
These two sides met in round three of the Womens Super League back in April with the Tigers winning by an impressive 27-0 and the Tigers are currently atop the league table with a one hundred percent record. The Rhinos are fourth, having lost twice, including the last time out against St Helens.
The Rhinos squeezed past St Helens in the semi-finals by 16-10 while the Tigers thrashed Wakefield Trinity by 100-0.
It had been an evenly matched opening eighteen minutes before a barnstorming run from Rhiannon Marshall saw her go forty metres, swatting away the Leeds Rhinos tacklers, to score in the right corner. Tara Stanley pulled her conversion attempt in front of the uprights, the Tigers with a 4-0 lead.
Within three minutes the Rhinos were on level terms when sixteen year old Fran Goldthorpe took a Courtney Hill cross field kick to drop over the line for the Rhinos opener. Hill added the extras and the Rhinos took the lead by 6-4.
On twenty-six Caitlin Beevers backed herself to go down the right wing to magic a try from nothing when taking the ball at second receiver from the back of a twenty metre scrum. Hill was unable to kick the touchline conversion, the Rhinos 10-4 ahead.
Marshall went close to her second on the half hour and on the next play Tamzin Renouf powered over under the sticks for the Tigers second. Stanley kicked the conversion from under the cross bar to tie things up at 10-10.
Leeds did well to stop Sammy Watts, with two minutes left on the clock, as the Tigers looked certain to score under the sticks and the hooter sounded for the interval with the sides locked at 10-10 after an end to end, exciting, first half.
As it had been in the first half, the opening nineteen minutes of the second were deadlocked by good defence and some careless mistakes in possession. Hill scored after a fifty metre run as the Rhinos broke from the back of a scrum on their own ten metre line with Danni Andderson the provider. Hill converted her own try and the Rhinos were six points ahead again.
The Rhinos were forced to drop out after letting the Tigers kick-off go dead but then did brilliantly to defend their line and repel a Tigers onslaught. The Tigers continued their pressure but the Rhinos defence was equal to it, somehow keeping the Castleford attack out.
As the clock ticked down the Tigers became increasingly desperate. Hill missed an attempted drop goal with eighty seconds remaining, but it didn’t matter in the end as the final hooter heralded a Rhinos win.
This was a cracking game between two dedicated sides as the Leeds Rhinos overcame the bookies odds to beat an exemplary Castleford side and secure a back-to-back Challenge Cup victory to retain the trophy. It was the Rhinos defensive effort which win the game, frustrating a Tigers side who had the majority of possession and field position.
Congratulations to all the players on a fantastic advert for the ladies game and congratulations to the Leeds Rhinos, Challenge Cup Winners 2019.
Rhinos: Beevers (T), Nuttall, Robinson, Kerrigon, Goldthorpe (T), Butcher, Hill (T, 2G), Anderson, Gaines, Johnson, Stanley, Booth, Lacey. Subs: Priim, Bennett, Frain, Oldroyd.
Tigers: Stanley (G), Dodd, Owen, Grace, Gentles, Roche, Garner, Field, Peach, Lumley, Renouf (T), Hoyle, Marshall (T). Subs: Watts, Higo, Reynolds, Cudjoe.
Referee: Cameron Worsley.