Wigan Warriors and York City Knights played out a Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup tie that will live long in the memory, as the Knights booked their place in the semi-finals, live and exclusive on TheSportsman on Sunday afternoon.
The Warriors came into this game unbeaten in the Betfred Women’s Super League, against a York side still looking for their first win of the year.
It had been a big week for the Knights in the build-up to this game, they announced seven new signings, bringing with them a wealth of Super League and international experience, as recently appointed Director of Rugby Lindsay Anfield wasted no time in stamping her mark on the squad.
York opened the scoring three minutes in when two of those new signings linked up, with Rhiannon Marshall producing an incredible offload to put Grace Field over for a try. Buoyed by their strong start, York were obviously full of confidence, and the Warriors had a storm to weather in the opening ten minutes as the Knights searched for more points.
Wigan held firm in defence however, with their forwards working hard in the middle and setting a platform for their backline to strike with two tries in quick succession, Anna Davies and Rachel Thompson finding joy on both edges to put their side ahead.
The last time these two sides met, Wigan came away 42-0 winners; and you might have been forgiven for thinking they might run away with again after that double sucker-punch. However, York dispelled any worries of a repeat by getting themselves back in front, with Bethany Lambert scoring in the corner with 20 minutes on the clock.
This game was quickly turning into a hugely entertaining cup tie, and Wigan didn’t leave it long to hit back with their third try of the game, Rebecca Greenfield selling an outrageous dummy to score in the corner. Georgia Wilson nudged the Warriors ahead with her first successful conversion of the afternoon.
After such an end-to-end opening 35 minutes, York began to tire, and Wigan took full advantage when Stirzaker found space on the left hand side to cross. However, there was yet another twist to come in a frantic first half. York opted for the short kick off, and it paid dividends as they regained possession.
The Knights were up against the clock to knock down the Wigan door before the break, and it looked as it the Warriors had done enough in defence when Limbert was held up over the line, but York looked the left edge on the next play, and Mel Halstead was on hand to level the scores up.
18-18 at the break.
With so much on the line in the second half, the tension visibly went up a notch and the opening exchanges were scrappy with both teams guilty of a number of unforced errors.
Just like in the first half however, it was York who were the first side to settle down, and they took the lead with 50 minutes on the clock, when Grace Field dotted down from Sinead Peach’s inch-perfect kick.
Wigan came into this game as favourites, but they were undoubtedly rattled as the game entered the final quarter, having been provided with their sternest test of the season so far.
There’s a reason that they start every season as one of the default favourites however, and they showed their class to lock the scoreboard up again with a quarter of an hour left on the clock, Thompson finishing off a superb flowing team move.
This game had already done enough to be certified as an absolute classic, but with the scores tied 24-24, there was still space in the script for someone to make themselves a hero.
In the end, that hero was Grace Field. Rhiannon Marshall was brilliant again in the build-up, and Field timed her run perfectly to get her hat-trick, and put her side on the brink of the semi-finals.
There were still some nervous minutes to play out, but Knights held on to get life under Lindsay Anfield off to the perfect start.
Full time – York City Knights 30 Wigan Warriors 24