Leeds Rhinos Women 12 York City Knights 4: Rhinos crowned champions after Grand Final win

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Leeds Rhinos overturned the formbook to regain the Betfred Women’s Super League crown with a superb 12-4 win over York City Knights at St Helens on Sunday.

Leeds finished third in the table, but beat second-placed St Helens at the semi-final stage and produced a magnificent defensive performance to shock league leaders York in the Grand Final.

York had long spells of pressure, but Leeds cracked only once and took two of their limited chances. Both tries were scored by centre Caitlin Beevers, who also made a series of crucial tackles in a player of the match performance.

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“Caitin is outstanding,” Rhinos coach Lois Forsell said afterwards. “I gave the girls a note before the game and hers said ‘every team needs a Caitlin Beevers’.

Caitlin Beevers scores for Rhinos. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com.Caitlin Beevers scores for Rhinos. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com.
Caitlin Beevers scores for Rhinos. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com.

“She has got number one on her back, but at the beginning of the season we made the decision to put Fran Goldthorp there and put Caitlin in the centres.

“It has suited us to a tee. She has made the position her own and I can’t see anyone taking it off her. She has been outstanding all year and today she was at a different level.”

It was an emotional second championship win for Leeds, in their fourth successive Grand Final. They were without Woman of Steel nominee Georgia Roche who has a broken foot and lost forward Shannon Lacey during the game.

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She was stretchered off after suffering a fractured leg in the opening moments of the second half, but took part in the trophy presentation in a wheelchair before going to hospital.

Leeds Rhinos lift the trophy. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com.Leeds Rhinos lift the trophy. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com.
Leeds Rhinos lift the trophy. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com.

“It shows how tough a character she is,” Forsell said. “She asked the ambulance to hang fire

because she had a medal to get. We’ll support her in the off-season and hopefully she’ll be back fit soon.”

Leeds led 6-0 when Lacey was hurt, despite having been camped near their line for most of the opening period. Beevers broke the deadlock with a try after seven minutes, stepping past the defence from a short pass by Courtney Winfield-Hill, who added the conversion from a tight angle.

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Beevers was close to adding a second following a clean break by Lucy Murray, who burst into space from Winfield-Hill’s pass, but Tara-Jane Stanley, who is also on the shortlist for Woman of Steel, made the crucial tackle.

Rhinos' celebrations begin as the final hooter sounds. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com.Rhinos' celebrations begin as the final hooter sounds. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com.
Rhinos' celebrations begin as the final hooter sounds. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com.

Other than that, the first half was played out in Leeds territory, but Rhinos’ defence stood firm. Stanley got over the whitewash, but the touchdown was ruled out for an obstruction and Rhinos centre Hannah Butcher made a crucial tackle to keep Hollie Dodd out.

Leeds didn’t have a spell of sustained pressure until the 50th minute and they made it count as England star Beevers went over for her second try. Winfield-Hill’s kick was spilled by a defender, Murray gathered for Leeds and Beevers weaved in from acting-half.

The captain’s second conversion made it 12-0, but York got back into the game with 23 minutes left through a superb solo try from Sinead Peach, who sliced through Leeds’ defence from 30 metres out.

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Stanley could not add the extras, but Peach opened up Leeds a second time moments later and had the full-back in support, but she was brought down in an outstanding last-ditch tackle by Fran Goldthorp.

Forsell was a Grand Final winner with Bradford Bulls as a player and in charge when Leeds lost 28-0 to Saints in last year’s title decider.

She said: “That togetherness, grit and determination and playing as a collective is what we’ve really been working on for the majority of the season.

“I think we were good considering we made it hard for ourselves at times in terms of retaining possession and retaining possession in the right places.

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“But Grand Finals are won by teams and I think our girls really showed they are a unit and they have great team spirit.”

Forsell described Rhinos’ defensive effort as “absolutely outstanding”. She said: “I think Leeds Rhinos do defend well the men showed us that the other night. I am really proud of the effort and determination they showed for each other.”

Meanwhile, Former Rhinos prop Amy Johnson was among the try scorers for Warrington Wolves as they overpowered Featherstone Rovers 34-6 in the Shield final.

Jessica Dadds’ try, converted by Samantha Watts, gave Rovers an early lead, but they weren’t in the game after that as Warrington clinched promotion to the top-flight of Super League with other touchdowns from Danielle Bound (2), Emily Baggaley, Lauren Roberts and Georgia Sutherland, plus five goals from Michelle Davis.

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The game was delayed with two minutes remaining following an injury to Rovers’ Olivia Grace, who was taken from the field on a stretcher.

York City Knights: Stanley, Gentles, Renouf, Langan, Taylor, Hetherington, Gale, Akpa, Peach, Wood, Dodd, Adrade, Owen. Subs Bell, Kershaw, Butler, Bessahli.

Leeds Rhinos: Goldthorp, Moxon, Butcher, Beevers, Robinson, Hulme, Winfield-Hill, Anderson, Bennett, Lumley, Nuttall, Murray, Hornbhy. Subs Kerrigan, Lacey, Cudjoe, Lockwood.

Referee: Michael Smaill (Leigh/New Zealand).