Super League sides spring into pre-season action
It has felt like the longest pre-season in rugby league history, but you know that as soon as the friendlies kick in, it won’t be long until the whole glorious contest kicks off.
In fact, the start of the women’s Super League is going to come sooner rather than later. It was all scheduled to begin on April 15th, but brought forward a week for one fixture…Featherstone v Leeds Rhinos. Today, it’s been scheduled even earlier – the curtain raiser will now take place on Thursday April 5, with a 7.30pm kick off, at the LD Nutrition Stadium.
League fans were given a glimpse of what lies ahead when the Rhinos women took on Castleford Tigers at the De Lacy Academy last Sunday.
With plenty of build up on social media over the last few weeks, anticipation has been building among supporters looking forward to seeing some quality players in action.
The Leeds team has its fair share, including Lois Forsell, captain, who signed from champions Bradford Bulls, Char Booth and Danika Priim, who also featured in England’s 2017 World Cup Campaign in Australia.
They’re coached by professional Super League and Rhinos player Adam Cuthbertson, and are expected to be strong contenders in the inaugural season of the Women’s Super League.
Castleford Tigers are coached by Lindsay Anfield, a former international star herself, who is now part of the England coaching set-up. She has conceded that Tigers didn’t live up to expectations last year, but judging by their performance on Sunday, she’s managed to pull together a tight and dedicated squad determined to be a force in the 2018 competition.
Jo Phillips was there to watch the two sides go head to head, and sent us this report:
With Castleford kicking downfield to the Rhinos, from the start, the game was played at a blistering pace.
Leeds, were organised by their captain, Forsell, who was instrumental in everything that the Rhinos did.
Priim made some strong attacking runs, but came up against a terrific defensive effort by the Tigers.
Tackling as a unit, and moving quickly off their defensive line, Castleford’s defence was proving difficult to penetrate, despite Leeds’ vigorous efforts.
It was Castleford who scored first, with a superbly crafted try, with some strong lines, and fluid passing, resulting in centre Alex Wallace touching down for the first try of the match.
A conversion by Hepworth brought the score to 6-0.
This seemed to further ignite Castleford, who created some strong, attacking plays, led by experienced forward Kirsty Higo.
Rhinos showed resilience in the face of the sustained Tigers attack, and managed to hold out for a while with some tight defence, orchestrated by Forsell.
However, a few minutes later, Castleford’s Katie Hepworth, with clever blindside play, put Maisie Burton over the line, for their second try.
The intensity of the game increased, with Leeds Rhinos desperately trying to respond, but they went into the break 14-0 behind, after Sinead Peach went over from close range for Cas.
The half-time team talk must have inspired the Rhinos who emerged looking re-energised and determined.
Their perseverance paid dividends, and within five minutes, got their first try of the game with Hayley Fielding capitalising on some disorganised defending by the Tigers.
It spurred Castleford to regroup and refocus, and they scored two more tries after that, from England star Katie Hepworth, with a 30m solo effort from a well-timed pass from Olivia Grace, and winger Kelsey Gentles who finished in the corner, from a precise offload from centre Georgia Hetherington.
Leeds kept persevering though and managed to go over once more, Leah Birkin powering over the line. With an unsuccessful conversion, the game finished with Castleford Tigers the jubilant side, winning 24-8.
An enthralling and entertaining game, it whet the appetite for the start of the season proper.
Leeds Head Coach, Adam Cuthbertson, said: “I’m really pleased with today’s game. It was our first hit out together as a team, and there are lots of positives to build upon.
“Cas have a season already under their belts and have managed to play a friendly, so we knew they were going to come into this game the stronger team, but it’s small steps for us in the right direction. We just want to represent the Leeds Rhinos badge as best we can, and fight to win trophies.”
Cuthbertson’s sentiments were echoed by Forsell: “Adam is really proud of us. We had to find a lot of determination and courage to dig deep and keep going, which we did. I just think we need to learn to dig deep for a full 80 minutes.
“We’ll take a lot of positives from today. We are setting up a legacy in Leeds, one game at a time, and with each game we’ll get stronger and provide a strong challenge for silverware.”
Jo Hetherington, team manager of Castleford Tigers, said: “Leeds gave us a good show, and are going to be a team that keep us at our pace.
“We want to build on last season, and show that we are a force to be reckoned with, and to be seen as a team that are here to stay. We’ve some strong additions to the team, and we aim to be at the top of our game this season.”
Castleford Tigers will open their campaign away to York City Knights on Sunday 22nd April.