Lois Forsell confident Leeds Rhinos can regain the Women’s Challenge Cup

OPPONENTS ST Helens will be hot favourites, but Leeds Rhinos coach Lois Forsell is confident her side are good enough to regain the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup at Elland Road on Saturday.

By Peter Smith
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 5:03 pm

Saints haven’t conceded a point in their five games this year and also nilled Rhinos in last season’s Super League Grand Final, in front of a record crowd at Headingley.

That completed a 2021 domestic treble after they had won the Challenge Cup – beating Leeds at the semi-final stage – and finished top of the table.

Rhinos were Saints’ closest challengers throughout last term, but a horrendous run of injuries took its toll and they couldn’t match Saints’ firepower in the title decider.

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Leeds Rhinos Women’s Emma Lumley and Chloe Kerrigan celebrate their side’s victory over York in the Challenge Cup semi-final. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Now, with a much healthier squad, Forsell is keen to see how Rhinos match up to the holders in the first showpiece of 2022.

Recalling the 28-0 defeat last October, Forsell said: “We played well for the first 20-25 minutes, but we didn’t have the ability to keep that momentum up.

“We are hoping it will be different this time.

“We learned a lot about ourselves as a group and it would mean everything to win the trophy this week.”

Leeds Rhinos Women's head coach Lois Forsell, right, pictured with Courtney Winfield-Hill. Picture: Will Palmer/SWpix.com.

Forsell stressed: “That’s what we are here for, because we want to win.

“If you don’t do that, you’re not doing your job.

“We are going to have to be on top of our game, but if you look down our team list, it is a very good team and we’ve just got to make sure we perform from minute zero to minute 80.

“We are excited; I know Saints are very good, but we have the ability to be very good too.

“We just want to go out there, make it a good game, enjoy the experience, but – more than anything – bring the trophy back.”

So far this season there has been no repeat of last year’s injury woes.

Forsell said: “We’ve got a couple who are facing late fitness tests, but I do expect we will be back to full-strength, all being well.

“This whole season has been class in terms of selection headaches, having to have conversations with players who are training the house down and not quite getting a shot yet. Last year was quite the opposite, we were lucky to field a 17 at times, so we are in a much healthier position now.

“Looking at who we’ve recruited and also the players we’ve got back from injury, I do believe, 100 per cent, we have got a better squad than last year.”

Rhinos, who won the Cup in 2018 and 2019, are unbeaten so far this term, having seen off Huddersfield Giants, Leigh Miners Rangers and Warrington Wolves in the Challenge Cup group stage before a tense 28-26 defeat of York City Knights.

Forsell reckons they can play much better, but feels the tough semi-final could give them an edge. “I don’t think I or Derek [Hardman, Saints coach] will be fully happy with our side’s form,” she said.

“The competition format has meant some weeks were quite challenging and some weren’t as challenging.

“It has been difficult to get form week in and week out; each team is still improving and developing, but it’s about which team goes out there and gives the best performance on Saturday.

“We had a really good test, mentally and skill-wise, in the semi-final against York and I think that’ll put us in good stead.”