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Player of the match Emily Rudge says St Helens did rugby league ‘proud’ by soaring to their maiden Women’s Challenge Cup title with an emphatic 34-6 victory over York City Knights, writes Milly McEvoy.
Rampant Saints ran in seven tries to Knights’ one at Leigh Sports Village in a dazzling display in front of the terrestrial TV cameras.
Rudge, Danielle Bush, Amy Hardcastle, Carrie Roberts, Paige Travis and two tries from Rachael Woosey propelled St Helens to victory and Rudge revelled in the history-making triumph in the north-west sunshine.
The England skipper, who sparkled in the first ever nationally-televised women’s rugby league fixture, said: “We hope we have done the sport proud.
“That was definitely one of our goals to come here and show it as a bit of spectacle for women’s rugby league.
“We probably made it hard for ourselves in that first half as we made quite a few mistakes.
“I think a lot of nerves came into it for the first 20 minutes, but once we got settled, we played some good rugby and I'm really pleased with the performance in the end.”
York had the better start in the first half and were twice held up on the line but it was Saints who broke the deadlock when Bush found space on the right.
And Derek Hardcastle’s side crossed three times more before the break as Woosey, Rudge and Hardcastle opened up a formidable 20-0 advantage.
Hardcastle’s sprint from her own half marked the pick of the bunch but York did respond at the start of the second period when Sinead Peach chased her own grubber to get the underdogs on the board.
But Woosey – following a crucial pass from captain Jodie Cunningham in the build-up – Roberts and Travis all dotted down to banish Saints’ semi-final demons from the previous two years and fire them to victory.
Influential half-back Faye Gaskin was forced off through injury in the first half and Rudge says that injected Saints with more motivation in front of the BBC Two cameras.
She added: “Faye's a massive part of our team so we were absolutely gutted when she went down injured.
“We hope it is nothing too serious for Faye but we definitely dug in for her.”