Words and header picture : Angela Powers
Wigan win first derby
It was probably the most anticipated fixture since the opening round when Bradford met Leeds. This time it was the one they call the one true sporting derby (aside from the horses of course) – Wigan v St Helens. St Helens were unbeaten, Wigan coming off the back of a loss to Leeds and a draw against Castleford. The Warriors women had home advantage but St Helens scored first through Chantelle Crowl, taking a 6-4 lead into the break. Wigan’s defence stood rigid in the second half though, and their attack picked up too, scoring four unanswered tries by Sarah Harrison, Rebecca Greenfield and two from Georgia Wilson.
The weekend before, Wigan picked up a point away at Castleford in a tense and tight game, the final score ending up 14 all. It was one of those games when you wish you’d been there, not just because it was a real contest, but to see how the rising stars in the women’s game are developing in the Super League era. Wigan were leading until the final minute, when Cas snatched a try and converted to get a league point. It points to a growing sense of poise under pressure. That’ll help massively when internationals loom.
Cas go top
So Castleford top the table, without a loss so far this season. Their breakthrough season last year allowed the squad to gel, and the long close season gave coach Lindsay Anfield plenty of time to focus on areas she felt needed work. So far, her approach is bearing fruit. It bodes well for England. Lindsay is on the coaching staff and her appointment was an astute one. Her experience as a player and a coach more than qualifies her for the role. Roll on the next World Cup.
Leeds marching on
The Rhinos continued their 2018 charge with a Wednesday win over struggling Featherstone Rovers, making them one of only two teams still without a loss so far this year. In their favour though, they have a game in hand, and if they beat St Helens on Sunday, they’ll go top of the league. Under Lois Forsell, they have organisational prowess and a determined steeliness that has got them results.
Game of the Weekend 1
But you Never Write Off The Saints, who have stars galore on their playing roster. It makes Sunday’s home game against Leeds a ‘must watch’. These are two of the best drilled women’s sides and both will have to be at their best to get the win. Danika Priim will be key in getting the Leeds side up field, the speedsters in the Saints side will be looking to exploit the gaps. And if it’s tight, Faye Gaskin’s boot might just prove the difference. I’m too much of a coward to call the winner though. Wish I could be there!
Game of the Weekend 2
As the battle rages for the top, the two sides at the bottom face a possible turning point moment this weekend. Neither Featherstone nor York City Knights have got a win this year so this will be a massive confidence boost for whoever comes away with the points. Bradford battered York 72-10 last time out, but Featherstone came close against Castleford, losing by just 8 points. Fev will have the edge here, I think
Despite their disappointing start to the season I’ve been impressed by the attitude of the York women at this difficult time. They’re a new team remember, and were always sanguine about their limited chances of making an impact this season. But their social media presence has been uplifting and positive, coach Kay Rollinson determinedly upbeat despite the disappointments. They need to keep focussed on the big picture and the long game. They can only benefit from their experiences so far.
Wigan, Castleford and Bradford get a weekend off, and no doubt a fair few of their players will be popping off to Newcastle for the Magic Weekend. It’s a great stage for showcasing rugby league, and the weekend opener between Toronto and Toulouse will no doubt get the festival started in lively fashion. It whets the appetite for the Championship’s Summer Bash in Blackpool, and turns one’s thoughts to the curtain raiser for that event, Featherstone women v Bradford women. It’s a great opportunity for the girls to show off their skills to a wider audience. Can’t wait!
On the up
Wakefield Trinity were one of the first Super League clubs to get a women’s team up and running, and they’ve been developing the female side of the club set up nicely over the months. They’ve appointed Natalie Gilmour OBE (pictured above) as their women’s ambassador and are on the look out for a development officer too. Claire Austin-Dyson is doing a great job talking the club and the game up. She has sat on the sidelines, frustrated with injury for months and is just about getting running again. She’s a constant positive voice on twitter and I’ll be the first on my feet and clapping when she gets back on the field. Come on Claire!
It’s great to see so much positive coverage for the women’s game, not just the Super league but all the levels, women’s and girls’ leagues. It has been an eye opener for new spectators, with Callum Walker for one admitting he was surprised at the skill levels on show. Catch his full article here. …well worth a read.