Huddersfield St. Joseph and Wigan St. Patrick lift plate and cup titles
BY SEB STERNIK
On a cold and rainy day at the LD Nutrition Stadium a storm was brewing, and it wasn’t just a meteorological one. Two cup finals were set to take place and a raucous crowd arrived through the gates to watch the action take place.
First up it was the Plate final. Defending champions, Huddersfield St. Joseph’s, took on Hunslet Warriors in what was described as a David vs. Goliath type fixture. The first half certainly didn’t reflect that as although St. Joe’s took a 20-8 lead going into the break, Hunslet were not afraid to take the game to the title holders.
Larise Deaves opened the scoring and Hayley Fielding followed suite as Huddersfield took an early 8-0 lead. Nicola Walker responded with a try for the Warriors but the South Leeds side were pegged back again when Laura Dyson’s effort made it 14-4 to St. Joes. Walker once again hit back for Hunslet nonetheless they went into the break 20-8 down following a second try for Deaves.
The second half, on the other hand, certainly reflected the initial description of this game. Huddersfield ran in nine tries to completely blow Hunslet out of the water. Hayley Fielding completed her hat-trick while Jess Hopkins and Lyndsey Cunnett both bagged a couple of tries each.
Laura Dyson also got her second before Lucy Eastwood and Megan Price added their names to the score sheet.
Despite the heavy defeat, Hunslet will look back on this as an important step in their development. For Huddersfield though, this is a consecutive Plate title which will undoubtedly give the side a lot of optimism heading into the near future. St. Joes head coach, Craig Robertson, said: “The girls have worked extremely hard all season. This is a fantastic result for everyone associated with the club.”
Following the conclusion of the Plate final, it was time for the main event. Current women’s Premier Division leaders, Stanningley, took on Wigan St. Patrick in the Challenge Cup final.
It was an edgy start from both teams and the 471 fans who turned out were forced to wait almost half an hour to see the first try. Stanningley took the lead through Tasha Gaines, who went on to convert her own try and give her side a 6-0 lead. Wigan replied with a try from Alex Simpson but the St. Pats went into the break 12-4 down following Rachael Barker’s try for Stanningley.
As the wet conditions worsened, the atmosphere became evermore tense. Wigan held their nerve and began their comeback with tries from Naomi Williams and Rachael Porter. This brought the score to 12-12 with Gemma Hennessey set to take a late conversion. Her kick bounced off the post but eventually went through the sticks to secure Wigan a victory with only a few minutes remaining.
Frustration was evident within the Stanningley ranks. Head coach, Darren Woods, said: “We didn’t perform like we have done all season. I thought we allowed Wigan to stay in the game and when you do that you always have a shot at winning so credit to them.”
Wigan head coach, Chris Greenfield, was delighted with the result and said: “It was close all the way through. I thought Stanningley played really well but it was us who came through in the end.”
Both teams will now turn their attention to the women’s Premier Division. Stanningley currently lead the way with three wins from their opening three games but Wigan are close behind in fourth. Their latest cup win could give them the inspiration they need to close the gap on the Yorkshire side.