Saints v Castleford Tigers
The Saints finally gained a win against the Tigers this season having lost and drawn the previous two encounters in Castleford, writes Graham Henthorne.
In a classic game of two halves it came down to a fabulous try saving tap tackle from stand-off Zoe Harris five minutes from time to give the Saints victory.
The first 40 minutes was probably the most convincing half of rugby that the girls have played all year with the Tigers only really threatening the Saints line in the last ten minutes.
The Saints opened the scoring on four minutes with the massively impressive Jodie Cunningham showing why she should be a nailed-on starter for England at the end of the season, crossing in the left corner.
Faye Gaskin, who was involved in all that was good for the Saints, dummied open then went blind with a great short ball to put Roxy Mura through the gap.
She was tackled 20 metres out by the Tigers’ Woman of the Match full back Tara Stanley but from the play the ball Gaskin again went blind. Her miss pass put Cunningham into space and she dragged two tacklers over with her. Gaskin then crowned it all with a magnificent touchline conversion.
Gaskin was kicking the Tigers to death at this point but her fabulous 40/20 saw a knock on ruin the chance.
But not to worry as the Saints scored in their next set.
The Tigers put in a long kick on the last which bounced into Gaskin’s hands on the Saints 30. She promptly rounded the chasing Tigers before going 60 metres down the line, just being caught 10 metres from the line.
From the play the ball Leah Burke was stopped short but quick thinking from Cunningham saw her go left to Mura who put Gaskin into the corner for a fitting finish. Although if it had been any further out the exhausted Gaskin may well not have managed it!
The Saints were rampant with Cunningham again short of the try line and the pacy centre was lucky to keep her head on the next set as she took Emily Rudge’s ball down the left before stepping inside the full back towards the sticks and begin felled.
The sin-binning left the Tigers down to 12 and the Saints took full advantage with Becca Rotheram scoring on the right-hand side two tackles later.
From the kick-off a poor attempted catch put the Tigers onto the attack and the Saints defence was tested to the full.
But in true Saints style the girls turned defence into attack with Gaskin again striding down the left. A Lizzie Gladman charge kept the Saints on the front foot and from the play the ball Harris’ neat grubber was plucked from the clutches of the Tigers by Naomi Williams for the score.
Gaskin’s conversion put the Saints 20 points to the good at the break.
But they do say beware the wounded animal and that’s exactly what the Saints found in the second period as the Tigers came out a different team.
They pulled one back five minutes in with a charge at the sticks after a penalty had marched them downfield.
Then five minutes later they had pulled to within eight scoring again as their left centre took advantage of a knock-on missed by the officials to go 70 metres to the sticks. Emily Rudge was walking under the sticks from Cunningham’s inside ball before it was knocked down by the full back.
Now it was the Tigers who were in the ascendancy and the Saints who were desperately hanging in there and it became even more so on the hour as the Tigers converted a penalty for a late hit by Saints skipper Tara Jones.
The Saints showed their defensive mettle with a big set on their line with Cunningham this time saving a try.
But the game changer came with five minutes left on the clock.
The Tigers left centre again got clear down the left wing and beat both her opposite number and full back Rotheram but from nowhere Zoe Harris managed to trip her with a flailing ankle tap and the Saints recovered enough to keep the Tigers out.
The game was made safe by another piece of Gaskin magic.
She jumped blind on the last tackle putting a kick through with the outside of her boot before chasing it down. This put the young winger under just enough pressure for her to fumble the ball backwards.
But Gaskin hadn’t finished there managing to get a boot to it forcing the ball free before picking the ball up on her knees and flicking a pass up to Leah Burke for the winger to go 30 metres to seal the game.
Best for the Saints were Faye Gaskin and Jodie Cunningham pushed close as ever by Emily Rudge, Vicky Whitfield and Naomi Williams.
Victory for the Saints means the chance of a home semi-final next week.
Tries: Jodie Cunningham (4), Faye Gaskin (11), Naomi Williams (30), Leah Burke (76).
Goals: Faye Gaskin 2 from 4.
Tries: Grace Field (45), Kelsey Gentles (52)
Goals: Tara Stanley 3 from 3.
Half Time: 20-0
Full Time: 24-14
1. Becca Rotheram; 2. Bex Wilson, 3. Naomi Williams, 4. Jodie Cunningh¬am, 5. Leah Burke; 6. Zoe Harris, 7. Faye Gaskin; 8. Sara Lovejoy, 9. Tara Jones (C), 10. Vicky Whitfield, 26. Katie-May Williams, 12. Roxy Mura, 13. Emily Rudge.
Subs: 15. Pip Birchall, 16. Lizzie Gladman, 17. Jade Ward, 21. Carys Marsh.
1. Tara Stanley; 2. Courtney Pointon, 3. Kelsey Gentles, 4. Georgie Hetherington, 16. Beth Weir; 6. Lucy Eastwood, 7. Olivia Grace; 8. Jasmine Rowley, 9. Sinead Peach, 10. Emma Lumley, 11. Lacy Owen, 12. Tamzin Renouf, 13. Georgia Roache.
Subs: 14. Maisie Lumb, 15. Katy Tordoff, 17. Grace Field, 18. Sam Jordan.
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