St Helens’ class and experience led them to a first Women’s Challenge Cup triumph as they comfortably saw off a valiant challenge from York City Knights. The Saints, littered with England internationals and mainstays of the women’s game such as Emily Rudge, Jodie Cunningham and Amy Hardcastle, were too strong for the Knights throughout here.
Leading 20-0 at half-time thanks to four outstanding tries worthy of gracing any game, the Saints controlled proceedings for the majority of the final against a York side still very much in their embryonic stages as a squad. In contrast, the experience of their opponents here was arguably one of the main differences, with their key players linking up to devastating effect to guide them to the title on an afternoon when the women’s sport was showcased live on the BBC for the first time.
After quelling some early York pressure, St Helens went ahead when Faye Gaskin’s pass sent Danni Bush across in the corner. Gaskin was injured in the act of celebrating that try but Cunningham replaced her at half-back in seamless fashion. She was involved in the move which sent Rachael Woosey over for the Saints’ second try.
Beth Stott failed to convert either try, but it mattered little as by half-time the Saints had added another two tries to underline their dominance. Rudge scored a magnificent solo try to make it 14-0, before a superb Cunningham pass sent Hardcastle through a gap in a tiring York defence, with Stott converting to make it 20-0 at the break.
York’s hopes were briefly raised when Sinead Peach crossed shortly after half-time, but within two minutes St Helens extended their lead again when Cunningham sent Woosey over the line for her second of the afternoon. It was one of several occasions when Cunningham, one of the most experienced players in the women’s game, tore York’s defence apart.
There was time for one more St Helens try, 也. With the result long secured, Carrie Roberts forced her way across the line in menacing fashion, swatting off three York defenders to emphatically underline how St Helens are very much the benchmark side in the Women’s Super League at present.