Saints Women reach historic Wembley final

St Helens Women have beaten York Valkyrie 17-16 at the Halliwell Jones Stadium to book their place in the final at Wembley on Saturday 12th August!

Faye Gaskin got the Semi-Final underway with a big boot at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, and the Red V started well with some good tackling and forcing Savanah Andrade to knock on by the halfway line. Off the Saints’ first attack, Amy Taylor kicked a high-bomb which wasn’t dealt with in-goal and Shona Hoyle reacted fastest to score the opening points just four minutes in. Taylor added the two extra points for an early 6-0 lead.

The Valkyrie on their first major attack kicked high to the right corner, but Eboni Partington collected the ball under pressure. Smith’s Women tried to come off their own line, and Emily Rudge leading from the front took a carry that saw her end up covered in her own blood but got taped up to carry on.

York kept trying to pile on following the opening points, but a penalty for a trip relieved it somewhat and Taylor took the team into the opposition half at a time when it looked like Saints could turn the pressure around, but a pass from Jodie Cunningham got intercepted by Tamzin Renouf took out the sting and she ran 70m to score for York. Stanley’s kick came off the posts, leaving the Saints holding a narrow 6-4 lead.

The Semi-Final began to get cagey, with both sides trading errors and getting more aggressive in their defending. Off a high kick, Saints were questionably judged offside at the kick with us looking to keep York pinned, but not this time. York went up the other end and despite having a Saints player down, the play went on and Tara Jane Stanley juked around the right edge and scored at the corner for York’s second but failed to kick her conversion, 6-8.

Vicky Whitfield came on for Darcy Stott and made an immediate impact in the middle of the field. York got caught offside, after the linesman finally told the referee, and the Red V made it pay with a good left edge play, Cunningham with the pass to Luci McColm who dived and slid in at the corner. Taylor from the sidelines couldn’t add the kick, giving St. Helens the edge again 10-8.

The Valkyrie struck back quickly with five minutes left in the opening half through a run in the middle by one of their forwards, helping them get up-field. 20m out Sinead Peach spotted a gap from dummy half and went in. Stanley added her first conversion of the day, 10-14 which the game stayed until the halftime hooter.

Stanley for the Valkyrie got proceedings back underway, and in truth in disastrous fashion with early pressure on the Saints line due to not dealing with the kick-off well combined with a knock-on. However, the Red V firmed up and forced a York knock-on with them close to scoring in the right corner.

Saints got a penalty in their own 20m and pushed all the way to the opposition line, Taylor shaped up to pass out to Phoebe Hook on the wing but the pass flew out into touch. A good defensive set kept Valkyrie in their 20 this time, and a charge down helped pile more pressure on.

A Taylor kick on the last went by the posts and ricocheted off the post pads and into Tara Jones’ hand for a Saints score! Taylor added the two to make it 16-14.

The game entered an arm wrestle stage, but the Saints continued to have the better of the field possession. A change for Hoyle down the right was cut out by some York defence which followed with a chance for Hook minutes later as she bested two Valkyrie defenders before being brought down.

A high tackle on Cunningham gifted the Saints field position, with a following penalty on the next play giving the Saints a full set in the York ten. A low pass from Harris was intercepted by Renouf, which was followed by a penalty for York to relieve the Saints’ pressure.

As the Saints come out their half, the last tackle saw Gaskin’s kick charged down, and after Channy Crowl was deemed offside upon scoping up the loose ball, the Valkyrie opted for two 35m out. Stanley converted the penalty, equalling the game up, 16-16, and a grandstand finish.

York worked their way up the field, with the Saints defence keeping their line strong. On the last tackle, the ball went back to Stanley who under pressure from Jones saw her drop-goal attempt go wide of the uprights.

Time for the Saints to try and win it then, working the ball up the field calmly and on the last tackle after two years of injury and recovery, Faye Gaskin nailed the drop goal from 30 metres out to put the Saints in the lead with 30 seconds to remaining!

Valkyrie tried a short kick-off but Jones recovered it well and kept York out, Stanley would then strip the ball illegally ensuring no more drama in a thrilling Semi-Final because St. Helens Women had beaten York and made history to go to the first-ever Women’s Challenge Cup played at Wembley!

Match Summary

St Helens Women Team: Zoe Harris, Phoebe Hook, Paige Travis, Luci McColm, Eboni Partington, Faye Gaskin, Amy Taylor, Chantelle Crowl, Tara Jones, Darcy Stott, Shona Hoyle, Emily Rudge, Jodie Cunningham.

Interchanges: Naomi Williams, Vicky Whitfield, Lucie Sams, Pip Birchall.

18th Player: Katie Mottershead.

Tries: Shona Hoyle (4), Luci McColm (30), Tara Jones (48)

Conversions: Amy Taylor (2 from 3)

Drop Goal: Faye Gaskin (79)

York Valkyrie Team: Tara-Jane Stanley, Emma Kershaw, Lacey Owen, Tamzin Renouf, Ashleigh Hyde, Sade Rihari, Olivia Gale, Grace Field, Sinead Peach, Aimee Staveley, Olivia Wood, Savannah Andrade, Jasmine Bell.

Interchanges: Daisy Sanderson, Rhiannon Marshall, Elisa Akpa, Georgia Taylor.

18th Player: Bethany Lambert.

Tries: Tamzin Renouf (13), Tara-Jane Stanley (25), Sinead Peach (35)

Conversions: Tara-Jane Stanley (1 from 3)

Penalties: Tara-Jane Stanley (1 from 1)

HT: 10-14

FT: 17-16

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