This was another attritional game between these two sides but unfortunately after the Saints hung on for the win at Thatto Heath earlier in the season they lost out to the Rhinos today.

But it could and should have completed the double had their handling been slightly better.

The Rhinos were obviously out for revenge for that earlier defeat and took advantage of Jade Ward’s knock-on on the second tackle to pepper the Saints line.

But as would happen often today the Saints showed great desire in defence to hold them out with Sarah Lovejoy, Vicky Whitfield and Emily Rudge combining to save a try.

But from that the Saints drove out of defence and on seven minutes were denied the opening score.

A big tackle again from Lovejoy and Whitfield forced the error from the Rhinos on their own 40 metre line.

Four tackles later Faye Gaskin’s miss pass found Katie-May Williams in the clear only for her to be brought back for a forward pass that the Saints were convinced was a line ball at worst.

Unfortunately it was an error early in the tackle count on our own line which gave the Rhinos the lead as their England hooker jumped out of dummy half catching the markers napping.

Undeterred it was Emily Rudge, without her injured partner in crime Channy Crowl, who took it on herself to take it to the Rhinos and again forced the knock-on with a crunching tackle.

And on quarter time it was the tireless Rudge with two carries in the set who put the Saints into position to open their account.

Zoe Harris missed the overlap on the right which would have given a walk-in to Bex Wilson. But on the last Gaskin took control with a delightful cross kick which the Rhinos defence couldn’t deal under pressure from Katie-May Williams allowing Lea Burke to pick up and stroll over.

Gaskin’s fantastic touchline conversion levelled the scores.

The Rhinos were finding it difficult to cope with the Saints aggressive defence with Roxy Mura joining the party with a big hit.

The Rhinos started the second half the better using the wind to their advantage just as the Saints had done in the first half.

But the scrambling defence from the women in the red vee wouldn’t crack with Gaskin leading the way exhibiting her new found tackling confidence with a try saving tackle. This was followed by another from a combination of Zoe Harris and Roxy Mura.

The handling from the Saints was continually putting them under pressure as simple carries in their own 20 metre zone were continually put down.

The defence finally cracked on the third repeat set as the Rhinos spread the ball to the right with the centre beating the cover in the corner.

The lead was extended with eight minutes left as a dubious penalty in front of the sticks was awarded despite it appearing that the ball carrier moved off the mark.

The last five minutes were belonged to the Saints as they piled on the pressure looking for the equalizing score.

Emily Rudge capped a fine display with another punishing run down the right before Gaskin put another cross kick to the left on the last. Cunningham took it superbly offloading in the tackle but Katie-May Williams held onto it instead of feeding Burke for her second.

In the final minute Cunningham again showed what the Saints have missed with two great runs down the left. On the last Gaskin fed the unusually quiet Naomi Williams who with speedster Bex Wilson open decided to go herself and the chance went begging.

This was definitely one that got away. After the Tigers did everyone a favour by beating our nearest and dearest it is entirely possible that the Saints will face the Rhinos once again in the playoffs.

But on this display, home or away they have nothing to worry about. The pack, with Sarah Lovejoy, Izzy Rudge, Lizzie Gladman and Vicky Whitfield who has no idea how good she could be, to the fore more than competed with their counterparts.

In Roxy Mura and Emily Rudge they have aggression to match anyone and pace in abundance in the still raw Leah Burke and Bex Wilson.

Captain Tara Jones controls the middle well but in Gaskin they have a potential match winner against anyone.

Match Summary:

Tries: Lois Forsell (13), Chloe Kerrigan (63).
Goals: Courtney Hill 2 from 3.

Tries: Leah Burke (20).
Goals: Faye Gaskin 1 from 1.

Half Time: 6-6
Full Time: 12-6


1. Caitlin Beevers; 2. Sophie Nuttall, 3. Chloe Kerrigan, 4. Sophie Robinson, 5. Madison Laverick; 6. Hanna Butcher, 7. Courtney Hill; 8. Rhiannon Marshall, 9. Lois Forsell (C), 10. Danielle Anderson, 11. Manina Spurr, 12. Aimee Staveley, 13. Amy Johnson.
Subs: 14. Shannon Lacey, 15. Frankie Townend, 16. Megan Price, 17. Elle Frain.

1. Becca Rotheram; 2. Bex Wilson, 3. Naomi Williams, 4. Katie-May Williams, 5. Leah Burke; 6. Zoe Harris, 7. Faye Gaskin; 8. Sarah Lovejoy, 9. Tara Jones (C), 10. Vicky Whitfield, 11. Roxy Mura, 12. Jade Ward, 13. Emily Rudge.
Subs: 15. Isabelle Rudge, 16. Lizzie Gladman, 17. Dawn Taylor, 21. Jodie Cunningham.

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