|York (8) 16|
|Tries: Renouf, Stanley, Owen Goals: Stanley 2|
|Leeds (0) 6|
|Try: Casey Goal: Enright|
York Valkyrie ended Leeds Rhinos’ grip on the Women’s Super League title with victory, ending their wait for Grand Final glory after last year’s defeat.
Tamzin Renouf and Tara Jane Stanley tries gave York a first-half lead in a high quality but intense spell.
Leeds took a penalty goal chance to get on the board through Ruby Enright, but York took the game away from them when Lacey Owen powered her way through.
Caitlin Casey scored for Leeds on the hooter, with York already celebrating.
This was a special success for Valkyrie director of rugby Lindsay Anfield, who had previously been denied at this stage with both Castleford and York in her coaching career.
Several of her players had also been on that bumpy ride to success from Tigers to Valkyrie, including the influential Stanley, and that outpouring of emotion was tangible at full-time as they realised their ambitions of winning the title.
Having gone unbeaten in the regular season and finished top of the table to lift the League Leaders’ Shield, York were theoretically favourites but the uncertainty around their ability to cope with the added pressure of one-off rugby was a big question mark to be answered.
Anfield’s side more than answered those concerns, starting out with intent through the carries of winger Georgia Hetherington and forward Elisa Akpa, while the bench carried the momentum through Jas Bell and Rhiannon Marshall.
They got their reward in terms of points when centre Tamzin Renouf squeezed in at the corner under pressure and then Stanley added a stunning solo try just before half-time.
Back-rower Owen, another of the former Castleford contingent, got the game-breaking score when she powered back against the grain in the second half.
Leeds’ stars such as hooker Keara Bennett, plus centres Caitlin Beevers and Amy Hardcastle, had moments of quality to test York’s mettle, but overall failed to connect those periods of ascendancy enough to unlock their defence.
It is down to the efforts of those players and the coaching of Lois Forsell that a Leeds side who lost internationals Georgia Roche, Fran Goldthorp and Georgia Hale to the Women’s NRL in Australia, before the season started, were able to regroup and maintain a title challenge.
Their try-scorer Casey, at just 18, should experience far more of these occasions in her career, and for her and fellow younger professionals Ruby Enright, Izzy Northrop and Bella Sykes – this will be a learning curve that could be beneficial in the long-run.
York: Stanley; Kershaw, Renouf, Roberts, Hetherington; Rihari, Gale; Akpa, Peach, Staveley, Andrade, Owen, Wood
Interchanges: Bell, Marshall, Hyde, Sanderson [Sharp]
Leeds: Enright; Nuttall, Hardcastle, Beevers, Robinson; Casey, Butcher; Northrop, Bennett, Hornby, Murray, Greening, Dainton
Interchanges: Cudjoe, Lockwood, Glynn, Sykes [Moxon]
Referee: Liam Rush
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