Leeds Rhinos women target pre-Wembley win as huge St Helens showdown looms

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Leeds Rhinos women are determined to go into Wembley with a bang, not a whimper.

Saturday’s Super League meeting with Barrow Raiders at AMT Headingley (2.45pm) is Rhinos’ last game before their Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup final showdown against St Helens seven days later. And prop Beth Lockwood, who played in Rhinos’ first match in 2018, insisted it is important to go into Wembley week on the back of a win and good performance.

Barrow, who were promoted at the end of 2023, beat Featherstone Rovers last weekend to pick up their first Super League win and Lockwood said: “It’s a good game for us to lay a platform to build on going into Wembley. You have got to plan like normal.

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“I know Barrow are going to fire everything they can at us so we can’t sit back. It’ll be all guns blazing for us to show why we are at Wembley and to get the best build-up we can into it.”

Leeds Rhinos celebrate their Women's Challenge Cup semi-final victory over Wigan Warriors. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Leeds Rhinos celebrate their Women's Challenge Cup semi-final victory over Wigan Warriors. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Leeds Rhinos celebrate their Women's Challenge Cup semi-final victory over Wigan Warriors. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Bans picked up from Saturday’s game don’t count until after the final, but Lockwood stressed players won’t be holding back in an attempt to avoid injuries. She said: “You can’t think of it like that. You have got to play week-by-week and I know Lois [Forsell, Rhinos’ coach] will be treating it like that.

“It’s the next game and you’ve got to play what’s in front of you. This week is going to give us the best step going into Wembley week. I should hope we’re not worrying about injuries and we’ll go out exactly how we will at Wembley.”

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A year ago Rhinos suffered a shock home defeat to Huddersfield Giants a week before their Wembley loss to St Helens. Having been beaten 12-6 by Saints in Super League last weekend, Lockwood admitted they need to get back to winning ways.

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Beth Lockwood in action for Leeds Rhinos during last year's Super League Grand Final defeat by York Valkyrie. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.Beth Lockwood in action for Leeds Rhinos during last year's Super League Grand Final defeat by York Valkyrie. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.
Beth Lockwood in action for Leeds Rhinos during last year's Super League Grand Final defeat by York Valkyrie. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.

“That’s definitely a big part of it,” she said. “We’ve got to go in [to Wembley week] not just winning, but having a good performance as a team. The more connected we are going into Wembley, the better chance we’ve got.

“We will attack it with that mind frame. Obviously we want to win, but I think the actual quality of performance from us is important, we want to keep our standards high and perform to the best we can.”

Last week’s loss ended Rhinos’ unbeaten record in 2024 and Lockwood vowed: “We’ll come back all guns blazing. It has put more fire in the belly to get back out there and go back against Saints in a week’s time - and also to get the two points against Barrow and perform as we can. We know we can perform better than we did last week.”

England centre Caitlin Beevers and prop Grace Field drop out from the side on duty against Saints. Grace Short – who plays for Oulton Raidettes and Leeds City College – could make her debut. Fellow academy player Angel Bentley has also been drafted into the initial squad and Elychia Watson, Beth Macmillan, Orla McCallion and Tilly Jae Brown are also vying for a call into the 17.

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Leeds Rhinos coach Lois Forsell, left. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Leeds Rhinos coach Lois Forsell, left. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Leeds Rhinos coach Lois Forsell, left. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Leeds Rhinos (v Barrow): from Robinson, Hardcastle, Butcher, Casey, Hornby, Bennett, Northrop, Sykes, Moxon, Lockwood, Murray, Whitehead, Cousins, Greening, Watson, Macmillan, Donnelly, McCallion, Brown, Short, Bentley.

Kick-off: Saturday, 2.45pm.

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