An exceptional seven-try effort from St Helens Women put Leeds Rhinos Women down 18-38 to get the Red V’s first win of the Betfred Women’s Super League season!

Fresh on the back of securing a quarter-final spot in the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup, and having only played one league game so far in 2023, the Saints were in the mood to lay a marker down for the campaign against the current champions.

Off the boot of Amy Taylor this exciting clash between two of the competition’s best sides got underway.

The first chance came for Saints off an offside penalty taking us 25 metres out just two minutes into the game. Good hit ups from Shona Hoyle and Faye Gaskin in the build-up, then off a terrific short ball from Amy Taylor the veteran Emily Rudge was too powerful from close range to open the scoring. A great kick from Taylor made our early lead 0-6.

Leeds’ first pressure on the Saints line came through a break in the middle, but Crowl fronted up in the middle making three tackles in one set to quell their chance and stop the likes of former Saint Amy Hardcastle for now.

The Rhinos though got better field position and kept the Saints were kept pinned in their own half. It would pay off for Leeds off the back of a six again with a scampering along the line run and a short ball to Caitlin Casey allowed her to crash over near the sticks. Eloise Hayward added the kick to level the game, 6-6.

The next visitors attacking set was a solid one marching the hosts back from our own line to their own 10m, a somewhat relieving set as Vicky Whitefield came on looking to make an impact, especially in defence at a time of need.

Following a Leeds penalty for crossing, Saints pushed Leeds again and another short ball from Taylor to Rudge proved to be successful but this time from around 40m out and to go near the sticks with 24 minutes played. Another strong converting kick from Taylor gave the Red V a 6-12 lead.

With some more confidence going forward, on came Pippa Birchall for Crowl and Leeds gave away a penalty for interference at the play of the ball soon after, around 30m out. Head Coach Matty Smith held up two fingers to go for goal and Taylor converted her third kick of the evening, 6-14.

Leeds would threaten the line with four minutes left on the board, but strong defence kept them looking to play off the cuff before giving away an error and a penalty. Saints would quickly make them pay, with a bursting run by the midway point of the field by Jodie Cunningham. On the next phase Shona Hoyle hit a great line around 30m out and sprinted to score in front of a growing great crowd of Red V fans. Taylor yet to miss with a kick made it 6-20 as half time beckoned.

Saints kept their foot on the gas following the break, Jodie Cunningham found a pass to Lucie McColm who in a tackle offloaded fantastically well to the red-hot-in-form Leah Burke who fended off the last Leeds woman to  score in the corner. The kick was a hard one and resulted in Taylor’s first miss of the game, 6-24.

Leeds trying to get their foothold back in the fixture provided a costly error straight after the first try of the game with a stripped ball. Cunningham with another pass this time to Hoyle cut the Rhinos open for another unconverted score, 6-28 with 46 minutes played.

The Rhinos would get their chances though and punish some Saints mistakes. Back-rower Hardcastle for Leeds with the try line in her sight threw a dummy which fooled the Red V defence and raced towards the posts for an easy Hayward kick to make it 12-28.

It would be back-to-back scores for the hosts too, with St Helens held in their own half on a couple of sets, and Hanna Butcher spotted a big gap on the right edge to pass to Hayward for the Rhinos’ third try, converting her own four-pointer, 18-28 with just over 20 minutes to go.

The first real chance since the hosts’ two second-half scores for the Red V saw Crowl drive to the line, with Cunningham looking to unlock the left edge. Lucie McColm tried to offload with three defenders on her but it would go into Leeds hands. But determined to make amends, with space on the left again McColm would ping her ears back and sprint 15m out to score. Taylor was ever so close to slotting a hard kick from the sidelines but missed.

As Paige Travis made way for Alyx Bridge, Cunningham made a big break through the middle of the park and Katie Mottershead who too had just come on and supported the run brilliantly, cutting the fullback out and Mottershead with chasing Leeds women on her still reached out to ground the ball, Taylor slotting over her fifth kick for 18-38.

The Rhinos would challenge once more before the end of the game, but our Saints again firmed up in defence and saw out proceedings to finish off the game and record a big win!

Match Summary

Leeds Rhinos Team: Sophie Nuttall, Eloise Hayward, Hanna Butcher, Sophie Robinson, Tara Moxon, Caitlin Casey, Tasha Gaines, Izzy Northrop, Keara Bennett, Danielle Anderson, Amy Hardcastle, Behtan Dainton, Georgia Hale

Interchanges: Jasmine Earnshaw-Cudjoe, Ellie Frain, Beth Lockwood, Kaiya Glynn

18th Player:

Tries: Caitlin Casey (16), Amy Hardcastle (50), Eloise Hayward (55)

Conversions: Eloise Hayward (3 from 3)

St Helens Women Team: Zoe Harris, Ebonie Partington, Paige Travis, Lucie McColm, Leah Burke, Faye Gaskin, Amy Taylor, Channy Crowl, Tara Jones, Darcie Stott, Shona Hoyle, Emily Rudge, Jodie Cunningham

Interchanges: Vicky Whitfield, Pippa Birchall, Alyx Bridge, Katie Mottershead

18th Player: Phoebe Hook

Tries: Emily Rudge (3, 24), Shona Hoyle (38, 46), Leah Burke (42), Luci McColm (68), Katie Mottershead (73)

Conversions: Amy Taylor (5 from 8)

HT: 6-20

FT: 18-38