In a repeat of last season’s Women’s Super League Grand Final the York Valkyrie faced the Leeds Rhinos hoping for a better outcome than the 12-4 defeat which they suffered for a heartbreaking end to their 2022 season.
York have dominated this season’s league competition, having gone the entire season unbeaten with just a single league draw to blemish their copybook, and that draw was against the Leeds Rhinos when the sides met and scored twelve points each in mid-July.
The bookies went with home advantage and gave the Valkyrie the best chance to win the game and secure their first ever title.
Leeds started the brighter and with just two minutes on the clock Beevers went close, but the referee ruled she’d grounded the ball just short of the York line a split second before losing possession.
A Leeds ball steal on thirteen gave York a great opportunity and on the second tackle Tamzin Renouf was taken to ground by the Leeds tacklers close to the touchline, but she managed to force the ball own one-handed in the corner while on her knees to give York the lead. The conversion went wide of the uprights.
Lucy Murray knocked on twenty from her own line on twenty-two but on the first tackle the Rhinos defence forced the error from York to bail out their colleague.
Keara Bennett went close for Leeds on twenty-six but was thwarted by a great try line tackle from Tara-Jane Stanley in the York defence and the Rhinos became increasingly frustrated.
The game was turning into a massive arm-wrestle with some massive hits from both defences.
With thirty seconds left in the first half cock a moment of brilliance from Stanley saw her eave her tacklers in her wake with a thirty-metre run to score in the right-hand corner. Stanley was short with her conversion attempt, York with an 8-0 lead at the interval.
A penalty from Leeds Ruby Enright on forty-five edged the Rhinos back within six points of the Valkyrie, opting to take the two rather than run the ball from twenty metres out and try and get the six.
A ball steal from Leeds on their own line gifted York a penalty and it was an easy two points for Stanley as she edged York back into their eight points lead, forcing Leeds to score twice with just over twenty minutes remaining.
With the clock showing sixty-two, York sealed the win when Lacey Owen muscled her way through her tacklers to force the ball to ground. Stanley added the conversion to take the Valkyrie three scores clear of the Rhinos, one hand on the trophy.
Leeds put in their best effort to get themselves a late consolation but York were not for allowing them anything until the final hooter, York already celebrating, but allowing Caitlin Casey to go in unopposed and reduce the arrears.
It was clear from the outset that York weren’t going to allow a repeat of last season’s disappointment, and that they came with their A-game against their most recent nemesis. York led from the very beginning and Leeds couldn’t get any momentum in the game or settle into their usual game. It is fitting that after a near perfect season that the Valkyrie lift the trophy and go through the season unbeaten in the league. York Valkyrie, Women’s Super League Champions 2023.
York Valkyrie: Stanley (T, 2G), Kershaw, Renouf (T), Roberts, Hetherington, Rihari, Gale, Akpa, Peach, Staveley, Andrade, Owen, Wood. Subs: Bell, Marshall, Hyde, Sanderson. 18th Man: Sharp.
Leeds Rhinos: Enright (G), Nuttall, Hardcastle, Beevers, Robson, Butcher, Casey (T), Hornby, Bennett, Northrop, Murray, Greening, Dainton. Subs: Earnshaw-Cudjoe, Glynn, Lockwood, Sykes. 18th Man: Moxon.
Score Progression: 4-0, 8-0 : HT: 8-2, 10-2, 14-2, 16-2, 16-6 :FT.
Lead Exchanges: York.
Referee: Matty Lynn.