Saints Women secure great away win at Leeds

St.Helens Women secured an important away day victory over Leeds Rhinos Women at AMT Headingley, 6-16 to go level on points at the top of the Betfred Women’s Super League table!

Matty Smith made three changes to the squad that was victorious over Leeds at Wembley with Rebecca Rotheram, Rachael Woosey and Meg Williams stepping into the seventeen.

Faye Gaskin got proceedings underway at Headingley with the kick-off and the Saints got the first chance of the match after driving close on the right edge, Zoe Harris floated a cross-field ball which Gaskin almost got under but Leeds managed to defend to keep us out.

An unkind bounce off a Caitlin Casey kick caught Rebecca Rotheram out and went for a 40/20, gifting Leeds a golden chance. A high shot was judged bang in front of the posts after and Casey called for the tee for an early 2-0 lead with six minutes played.

Leeds looked to hold Saints by the halfway line but a high shot on Jodie Cunningham allowed a chance to attack, a late six again call in the tackle count was well managed by Cunningham next to the try line as well, she got a quick play of the ball off and Tara Jones with a trademark hooker’s scoot for the first four-pointer of the afternoon, 10 minutes in. Gaskin could not add the conversion, 2-4.

A Harris swirling kick saw Ruby Enright spill a catch and give Saints another good chance close to the Leeds line. Sophie Robinson going for an intercept gave another go too. Luci McColm came closest with two strong runs, but Rhinos held firm and a chance was wasted, and an error compounded it with Saints being called offside for some much needed relief for the home side.

The Rhinos would then push for their first sustained attack in the opposition twenty, Evie Cousins on the right wing went a dive into the corner but Rachael Woosey took her into touch. Another close call came with a pass out to the left for Robinson, but the ball went out after pressure from St.Helens. A scrappy period followed with errors by both teams.

Just before the 25 minute mark, the Saints cut through thanks to a brilliant dummy half run by Jones through the middle with Darcy Stott on the field and taking more metres. Following it, Saints got a scrum 20m out but threw the ball out, trying a little too hard too early. Katie Mottershead then came on, looking to speed up the ruck.

Zoe Hornby also came on for the hosts after 30 minutes and cut through the middle, but Beri Salihi slowed down the big prop well. Salihi did the same a couple of minutes later after Cousins took a kick return and broke through, our #1 stopped the winger a couple of metres short of the line, then Lucy Murray looked to scoot over next to the line but Saints drove her into touch – remarkable scramble defence as the final major act of a close opening forty.

Saints started the second half brightly with some strong defence and great line speed. Leeds would come up with a couple of errors to keep the pressure by their own line. The first decent chance of the half saw Cunningham feed a late ball out to Rotheram but Rhinos desperately took her in touch. Gaskin shortly after tried a dummy and go, but the referee judged her pass forward after it came off Darcy Stott’s boot.

Ten minutes into the second stanza, the right edge kept the ball moving between themselves after spotting half a gap but Leeds kept holding us out. On the last a smart Harris grubber bounced in the right area with Gaskin wanting to leap on it, but it was one bounce too much for a 20m restart.

Paige Travis kept driving into the middle, but the Rhinos appeared to be holding her down whilst under her, Travis not happy about it pushed her opposition after the play of the ball, gifting the hosts a rare chance to attack in the opposition half for the first time time in the second forty. Robinson and Beevers tried linking up on the edge, but Saints held them out.

Hard, tough, good carries were then made by Cunningham and Emily Rudge, followed by a relieving dummy half jump from Mottershead, with the Saints looking to return the pressure back on the hosts.

Firmly in an arm wrestle, the hour mark came and neither side had yet a real breakthrough and a tight, physical encounter saw both looking for a spark. Leeds got one, Robinson with a sprint on the wing which Salihi again stopped strongly. On our next attack, Beri looked to go on the right and she spotted a half gap but stopped momentum due to suffering severe cramp.

Smith’s charges then got another welcome attacking set after a high shot, Faye Gaskin looked left, took on the line and then with four Rhinos around her she spun and got a very well deserved try. She would be smarting following it though, looking to have a leg injury which required some treatment. Zoe Harris stepped up to kicking duties and she slotted it over, 2-10, 13 minutes left to play.

The rain began pelting down, the Rhinos went for a short kick-off and got the ball back so a big opportunity to get one back. Bennett got close, but Saints were pinged for an offside on the last tackle looking to close down Casey. A high shot penalty was then also given, with St.Helens firmly under pressure on their own line but good line speed put them under pressure and the hosts knocked on. Under ten minutes remained to play, as Tara Jones returned for the close of the fixture.

Jones made an immediate impact off an offload, marching the Rhinos back 40 more metres, Gaskin chipped a kick which Harris led the chase and cut down Casey, but the Rhinos half would kick and Rotheram knocked on giving Leeds a chance for a major attack.

Following the scrum, the hosts shaped up on the right and Evie Cousins managed to squeeze into the corner to set up a dramatic finish. Casey could not add the conversion from the sidelines though, with around five minutes left, 6-10.

The restart saw Leeds bundle it around on the now greasy surface following the rainfall, with the Saints getting the ball back. Vicky Whitfield looked to power over next to the line, but as she played the ball Jones knocked on.

Cunningham’s words to her teammates echoed around Headingley and Saints sought to see the game out and they would get a brilliant finish to seal a victory. In the dying embers and on the last, Gaskin punted a planned kick which ricocheted off the right post pad, and the Betfred Player of the Match Zoe Harris chased it, like she did all game, and grounded under the posts!

Gaskin back on kicking duties added the extra two points to finish the game 6 points to 16!

Leeds Rhinos Women’s team: Ruby Enright, Evie Cousins, Amy Hardcastle, Caitlin Beevers, Sophie Robinson, Hanna Butcher, Caitlin Casey, Izzy Northrop, Keara Bennett, Bella Sykes, Lucy Murrary, Shona Hoyle, and Bethan Dainton

Interchanges: Ella Donnelly, Jenna Greening, Zoe Hornby, Liv Whithead

18th player: Beth Macmillan

Tries: Evie Cousins (74)

Conversions: Caitlin Casey 0/1

Penalties: Caitlin Casey 1/1

St.Helens Women’s team: Beri Salihi, Rebecca Rotheram, Erin Stott, Luci McColm, Rachael Woosey, Zoe Harris, Faye Gaskin, Vicky Whitfield, Tara Jones, Channy Crowlm Paige Travis, Emily Rudge, Jodie Cunningham

Interchanges: Naomi Williams, Darcy Stott, Katie Mottershead, Megan Williams

18th player: Erin McDonald

Tries: Tara Jones (11), Faye Gaskin (65), Zoe Harris (79)

Conversions: Faye Gaskin 1/2, Zoe Harris 1/1

HT: 2-4

FT: 6-16

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