YORK City Knights Ladies fell to defeat in their first ever Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final, losing 12-4 to Leeds Rhinos Women at the Totally Wicked Stadium in St Helens.
A brace from Caitlin Beevers, who scored a try in each half, was enough for Leeds to emerge as victors from the tight contest.
York responded through Sinead Peach in the second half, who scored at the end of a brilliant run through the Rhinos defense, but her try would be nothing more than a mere consolation.
Despite their defeat, to have reached the Grand Final is a tremendous achievement for the Knightsa merit for the incredible transformation they have undergone in the past three years.
In 2019, the Knights finished second-from-bottom in the Super League table, winning just one game all season.
Since the introduction of Lindsay Anfield as director of rugby last year, alongside a number of recruits, York have made an incredible turnaround.
Last month, the Knights won their first ever League Leaders’ Shield, beating the Rhinos 24-14 at Headingley.
It was the second win of two for York over Leeds in the regular campaign. In June, at the LNER Community Stadium, the Knights beat their Yorkshire counterparts 24-10.
Despite the Knights having won both clashes with the Rhinos, the Grand Final was expected to be a tight game.
Anfield made two changes to the side that beat Wigan in the play-off semi-final two weeks ago. Tamzin Renouf and Georgia Taylor were drafted in for Emma Kershaw and Bettie Lambert.
Though York had a promising start, denied in Leeds’ 10 on the left only by a sea of Rhinos shirts after a dazzling Tara-Jane Stanley run, it would be the Knights’ opponents to open the scoring.
Doing well to battle through some pressure from York, Courtney Winfield-Hill found Caitlin Beevers with a pass.
The left-centre broke through the York line in the middle of the pitch to open the scoring. Winfield-Hill improved the score with his first conversion of the afternoon.
The entire first half Leeds’ defense remained strong, presenting a line that York struggled to break.
The Knights came close on several occasions, with one such chance coming through Hollie Dodd who carried the ball to their 40, before being stopped in the middle.
A high tackle awarded the Knights a penalty, but Peach’s grubber on the last was knocked on, allowing Leeds to resume play on their 10.
Only minutes later, York thought they had found a reply when Stanley broke through the Rhinos defense on the right to score.
Her effort, however, was ruled out by referee Michael Small for an obstruction in the play’s build up.
Though York did well to push the Rhinos defense back throughout the first half, they could not breach Leeds’ backline and ended the first half scoreless.
At the start of the second half, Leeds’ Shannon Lacey went down awkwardly in a challenge, seemingly damaging her lower leg, and was forced from the pitch with injury.
York were once again able to bring themselves close to scoring on an attack, but once more, a resilient Rhinos defense prevented them from passing.
By the 50 minute mark, Leeds were once again on the offensive. After a pressing run from Bethany Lockwood, Winfield-Hill fired a kick to the left.
York spilled the high-rising delivery and on the next tackle Beevers, after cutting inside, burst through the Knights defense to score her second try of the match.
Winfield-Hill then managed to notch another conversion to improve the score with her second and final goal of the afternoon.
Only moments after the Rhinos doubled their advantage, the Knights found Peach on an attack.
York’s number nine sprinted through the Leeds defense from the center of the pitch, darting her way forward after capitalizing on a gap within the Rhinos while looking to score.
Fran Goldthorp came close to bringing Peach down on the line, but Peach persevered and scored York’s first try of the match.
Stanley could not improve the score, missing her first and only conversion of the game.
From then on, the Knights still looked to further reduce the deficit in the match but remained unable to breach the Rhinos defence.
Though the remainder of the second half was tense between the two sides, the game was scoreless after Peach’s try as Leeds went on to win in what was their fifth consecutive Women’s Super League Grand Final.
York: Stanley, Taylor, Renouf, Langan, Gentles, Gale, Hetherington, Akpa, Peach, Wood, Andrade, Dodd, Owen
Subs (all used): Kershaw, Bessahli, Bell, Butler
Tries: Peach (57′)
Leeds: Goldthorp, Moxon, Butcher, Beevers, Robinson, Hulme, Winfield-Hill, Anderson, Bennett, Lumley, Nuttall, Murray, Hornby
Subs (all used): Earnshaw-Cudjoe, Lacey, Lockwood, Kerrigan
Tries: Beevers (7′, 50′)
Goals: Winfield-Hill (2/2)
Referee: Michael Small
Attendance: Not given
Goal-line drop-outs forced: 3-0
Sin bins: None
Red cards: None