Leeds Rhinos beaten by York Valkyrie in Women's Super League Grand Final
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That led to York’s Tara-Jane Stanley booting a penalty goal for a ball steal in front of the posts. In the next set, Sophie Nuttall - who had returned from a head injury assessment - knocked on in similar fashion and Lacy Owen crossed for a converted try which made it 16-2 and left Leeds with too much to do.
York’s Grand Final side included six players - plus coach Lindsay Anfield - from the Castleford squad beaten by Leeds in three finals in 2018-19 and have been the best and most consistent side for two seasons.
They lost only once in all matches this year so are worthy of the champions tag, but Rhinos can hold their heads high.
Despite captain Courtney Winfield-Hill’s retirement and the loss of star players Fran Goldthorp, Georgia Roche and Georgia Hale to the Australian competition, they finished third in Super League and reached both major finals.
In addition, teenagers Ruby Enwright and Caitlin Casey - wearing squad numbers 31 and 26 - have emerged as two of the most promising youngsters in the English game, while Keara Bennett, Zoe Hornby and veteran captain Hanna Butcher have all had a big year.
On the day, they gave it their all in front of a Grand Final record crowd of 4,457 at LNER Community Stadium, but York, whose defence was rock-solid, always had the edge.
They cracked twice, firstly after three minutes when Caitlin Beevers got over the line, but the touchdown was ruled out for a knock-on after referee Liam Rush handed the decision to his video assistant Marcus Griffiths.
The second time came in bizarre fashion right at the end. The hooter went, York players began celebrating and Caitlin Casey ran through to score Leeds’ only try. They didn’t bother with a conversion attempt.
York opened the scoring on 15 through Tamzin Renouf, from Liv Gale’s pass. That came off what looked like a harsh penalty for a ball steal and Leeds were unlucky to be called offside when Stanley spilled Caitlin Casey’s kick on the hosts’ line.
In the final minute of the opening period, York got the ball from the scrum and England full-back Stanley sliced through for a well-taken try to make it 8-0.
Rhinos’ first penalties came back-to-back five minutes after the interval, both for high tackles and Ruby Enright took the two from the second.
Rhinos, particularly from one outstanding break by Kaiya Glynn, put York under huge pressure for a spell after that, but couldn’t find a way through and once York had reestablished their two-score advantage they were in control.
Rhinos also defended strongly and, apart from the two crucial mistakes, both teams were largely error free. The first half penalty count was 3-0 in York’s favour. It swung after the break, finishing 6-4 to Leeds, but they weren’t able to take advantage.
There’s no doubting Rhinos’ spirit or defensive resolve and when they can add some more polish with the ball they will be back among the honours.
York Valkyrie: Stanley, Hetherington, Roberts, Renouf, Kershaw, Rihari, Gale, Akpa, Peach, Staveley, Owen, Andrade, Wood. Subs Bell, Marshall, Hyde (not used), Sanderson.
Leeds Rhinos: Enright, Nuttall, Hardcastle, Beevers, Robinson, Butcher, Casey, Hornby, Bennett, Northrop, Murray, Greening, Dainton. Subs Earnshaw-Cudjoe, Glynn, Lockwood, Sykes.
Referee: Liam Rush (Dewsbury/Batley). Attendance: 4,547.