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A place at Wembley on the 8th June, to take on cup holders St Helens, awaited the winners of a mouthwatering encounter between the Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors as the second Challenge Cup semi-final took place at the Totally Wicked Stadium in St Helens.

It couldn’t be closer in the league with both sides currently unbeaten after three rounds of the Women’s 2024 Super League and sat in equal top place and just a small separation in achieved points difference.

Leeds have been the defeated finalists in the last two seasons after back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2019, while the Cherry & Whites have never made it to a Challenge Cup Final, eighty minutes would lead to elation and heartbreak, but few would be brave enough to call the outcome before the kick-off.

Only seventy seconds had registered when the Rhinos scored the first points, Ruby Enright running the angle to score in the left corner after a clever short kick-off from Leeds had given them the first use of the football. Enright was unable to add to her try with the touchline conversion, but it had been the dream start for the Blue and Amber.

Wigan were back on level terms on eleven as Victoria Molyneux spotted a gap, stepped off the left foot and darted for the line to dive over. Emma Knowles smashed her kick through the uprights to give her side the lead.

After earning a penalty on twenty Wigan called for the kicking tee and Knowles doubled the Wigan lead to 8-4.

Another inspired kick-off from Enright saw Leeds regain the ball and march downfield with Caitlin Beevers taking the final pass and crashing over to ground under a pile of Wigan tacklers. Enright hit the near upright, the sides tied up.

Just after the half hour a determined run from Grace Banks saw her through the Rhinos defence with a dart from ten metres to dive in for a great solo try. Knowles was again on target and the Warriors had a six-point lead heading towards the break.

Three minutes from the interval Zoe Hornby avoided five Wigan tacklers as she spun free before doing a three-sixty and diving over under the sticks. Enright added the conversion, the Rhinos back on level terms at 14-14 as the sides headed for the sheds, the game living up to its pre-game expectations.

Two minutes after the sides resumed, Wigan were back in the lead with Jade Gregory-Haselden avoiding the Leeds tacklers to ground under the sticks. Knowles made it four from four on the afternoon for 20-14.

Leeds responded inside two minutes thanks to weak Wigan defence with Hanna Butcher running through the Wigan defence after the Rhinos were awarded a penalty for a high tackle. Enright pushed her kick across the face of the sticks, Leeds still two points adrift.

In the see-saw game the Rhinos were back in front on fifty, Enright taking a cross-field kick on the full to walk under the sticks for a simple try. She added the conversion, Leeds with a four-point advantage.

A brilliant fend and accelerate from Lucy Murray sealed the Rhinos sixth try of the afternoon as the tired Wigan defence simply opened up. Enright added the conversion, the Rhinos now ten points ahead.

Despite a ten-point lead, there was still everything to play for as the game passed the hour mark, Wigan still with a belief that they had a fightback in them.

The game was put beyond any doubt on seventy-two as Keara Bennett bust a tackle and stretched to ground on the line. The video referee was consulted and agreed with the on field official, and despite Bennett failing to convert her own try, it was a fourteen-point lead for the Rhinos with just over six minutes left.

On seventy-six Wigan’s Rease Casey had a try ruled out as the video referee determined that she didn’t get the ball to the line. Wigan just running out of steam in the closing stages.

A high-quality semi-final between two capable sides with the Rhinos fitness showing in the end as they accelerated to the win as the Warriors tired in defence and gaps started to appear. Once again it will be a St Helens v. Leeds Rhinos final, Leeds looking to get over their hoodoo of the last two seasons and lift the trophy again for the first time in five seasons.

Leeds Rhinos: Enright (2T, 3/6 G), Whitehead, Beevers (T), Hardcastle, Cousins, Butcher (T), Casey, Field, Bennett (T, 0/1 G), Northrop, Murray (T), Sykes, Dainton.  Subs: Robinson, Hornby (T), Greening, Donnelly. 18th Man: Watson.

Wigan Warriors: Banks (T), Welsford, Hilton Davies, Derbyshire, Rowe, Knowles (4/4  G), Speakman, Casey, Fisher, Molyneux (T), Coleman, Thompson. Subs: Singleton, Gregory-Haselden (T), Jones, Foubister. 18th Man: Hayes. 

Half-Time: 14-14.

Full-Time: 34-20.

Score Progression: 4-0, 4-4, 4-6, 4-8, 8-8, 8-12, 8-14, 12-14, 14-14 :HT: 14-18, 14-20, 18-20, 22-20, 24-20, 28-20, 30-20, 34-20 :FT.

Lead Exchanges: Leeds – Square – Wigan – Square – Wigan – Square – Wigan – Leeds.

Referee: Adam Williams.  

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Posted by RLFANS News Hound on Sun 19th May 2024 2:12 PM | Views : 4229 | Replies : 0 | BACK TO STORIES