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Women’s Challenge Cup final: Leeds Rhinos aim to find extra per cent to topple holders St Helens

Seven months on from their meeting in last year’s Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final, Leeds Rhinos and St Helens face off again for a major honour when they clash in the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup final at Elland Road on Saturday (12pm kick-off)

Last Updated: 06/05/22 6:48am

Courtney Winfield-Hill and Jodie Cunningham will both face off again in the Women’s Challenge Cup final

The stage may be different, so to may the trophy up for grabs, but what does not change for Courtney Winfield-Hill or Leeds Rhinos is what they need to do to overcome St Helens in Saturday’s Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup final.

It was last October the same two teams went head to head in the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final at Headingley, which saw Saints secure a 28-0 win to complete an unprecedented clean sweep of domestic honours.

Now, seven months later and just over three miles away at Elland Road, the Rhinos aim to claim the Women’s Challenge Cup for the third time and skipper Winfield-Hill is eager to see her team apply the lessons learnt from that last encounter.

“After that defeat last year, it made us go back to the drawing board and perhaps re-energised the group to working a little bit harder and finding that extra per cent here and there so we can present ourselves in much better shape come our next opportunity,” Winfield-Hill said.

“That presents itself on Saturday, which is really special, and is one with the squad we’ve got we can go out there and give this a red-hot shake.

“The experience it gave some of our youngsters last year and in that final was immeasurable and I’d like to think with that mix and that team dynamic we can deliver a better performance now.”

This year’s final at the home of Leeds United will again serve as the curtain-raiser for a treble-header, with the two semi-finals of the men’s Challenge Cup to decide the finalists at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 28 taking place as well.

After that defeat last year, it made us go back to the drawing board and perhaps re-energised the group to working a little bit harder and finding that extra per cent here and there so we can present ourselves in much better shape come our next opportunity.

Leeds Rhinos captain Courtney Winfield-Hill

St Helens’ women are aiming to ensure they retain their trophy and complete the first part of what could be a day of double celebration for the club as the men aim to take a step closer to retaining their trophy when they take on Wigan Warriors afterwards.

Last year’s final against York City Knights in Leigh saw the team claim their first trophy since coming under the aegis of St Helens and captain Jodie Cunningham admitted the expectation to add to the club’s history of success was something which weighed on their shoulders.

“We feel that pressure a little bit as the women, especially before last year,” Cunningham, whose side have yet to concede a try in the Cup so far this season, said. “We know this is a club with massive history and huge success, and we wanted to be part of that and contribute to the success of the club.

“Last year we did that, and the club were brilliant with us and really supportive of everything we did. We want to do that again and be contributing to the success the club has.

Jodie Cunningham says St Helens will not be underestimating Leeds Rhinos in the Betfred Women's Challenge Cup final.

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Jodie Cunningham says St Helens will not be underestimating Leeds Rhinos in the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup final.

Jodie Cunningham says St Helens will not be underestimating Leeds Rhinos in the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup final.

“It’s so great the club can have two teams in the competition, and hopefully success on both fronts at the weekend.”

St Helens will undoubtedly have plenty of fans there cheering them on in the 12.30pm kick-off who will then be staying on to watch the men in action, having taken a significant number to Headingley last year as part of a record attendance for the Women’s Super League Grand Final.

England international Cunningham believes it is a sign more and more fans are rallying around irrespective of whether it is men or women wearing the shirt.

“It’s a family, isn’t it?” Cunningham said. “When you support a team, it’s a big family and it doesn’t matter who is wearing that badge, they’re a part of that family.

We feel that pressure a little bit as the women, especially before last year. We know this is a club with massive history and huge success, and we wanted to be part of that and contribute to the success of the club.

St Helens captain Jodie Cunningham

“That’s what we feel at Saints and I know Leeds have got that really tight unit and massive following for the women.

“It’s brilliant to see that and we’re just trying to set the path so there are even more opportunities for the young girls coming through.”

Winfield-Hill, who starred for Leeds when they lifted the Challenge Cup the first time the final was held as part of a treble-header with the men’s semi-finals in Bolton in 2019, hopes that is proving to be the case for the Rhinos as well.

However, the 35-year-old wants to ensure she and her team-mates keep proving an inspiration to women and girls who may not have previously been exposed to rugby league.

Sporting stars and partners Lauren and Courtney Winfield-Hill grill each other about their relationship.

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Sporting stars and partners Lauren and Courtney Winfield-Hill grill each other about their relationship.

Sporting stars and partners Lauren and Courtney Winfield-Hill grill each other about their relationship.

“I hope so, but in the same breath I hope we’re capturing a new audience as well, which I think is really important,” Winfield-Hill said.

“While we’re one club and it’s one sport, like anything you have your own niche audiences and I hope we’re able to attract a new audience which perhaps have never engaged with rugby league before.”



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