YORK City Knights avenged their cup semi-final defeat to Leeds Rhinos by beating their Betfred Women’s League title rivals 24-10.
York had narrowly lost out to Leeds in the Betfred Challenge Cup semi-finals 28-26 in April but the Knights were much-improved from the Halliwell Jones defeat at the LNER Community Stadium.
Lindsay Anfield’s side headed into half time level at 4-4 and having seen Rhiannion Marshall sent off on the stroke of the break.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, York reeled off 20 points in the second half to seal back-to-back wins over cup finalists St Helens and Leeds.
After the dramatic win over Saints last time out, Anfield had declared her side were no “one-win wonder”, although they did show some early signs of a mental hangover, conceding after eight minutes when Zoe Hornby went over on the back of a penalty won 10m out.
York quickly rallied though, equalising five minutes later when, after winning back-to-back penalties, Tara Stanley produced her trademark left step near the line and went over down the right, but missed her subsequent conversion.
At the other end, the hosts were defending well, twice putting Leeds in touch in the space of a couple of minutes as they attempted shift plays left and then right.
Having just returned from an injury, York were dealt a blow when winger Kelsey Gentles limped off hurt.
Without the England international, the Knights became somewhat reliant on Stanley in attack, with the full-back stopped on the last and forced into touch before Ash Hyde dropped her clever flick pass out wide.
The half seemed to be petering out until Marshall was sent off for her part in a tussle with Jasmine Cudjoe, the Leeds half only seeing yellow.
Against all expectation, going down to 12 seemed to bring York to life.
Only eight minutes after the restart, a nice short ball by captain Sinead Peach close to the line saw interchange Alisha Clayton barge over.
Stanley converted and added a penalty goal five minutes later for the Knights.
Given York’s lack of numbers, it felt almost inevitable that Leeds would mount a comeback and in a penalty-strewn match (there were 21 penalties or six-agains in total), they profited from some Knights ill-discipline.
A couple of penalties and a six-again gave the field position for Hornby to go under the sticks, leaving an easy conversion for Hulme.
Leeds created little more thereafter and it was York who finished strongest. Tamzin Renouf was denied by a harsh forward pass call late on in the semi-final yet she was the beneficiary of a blatantly forward assist from debutant Lacey Owen.
In the penultimate minute, Olivia Wood shrugged off several goal-line defenders to add further gloss to the scoreline, with Stanley converting both late efforts.
York: Stanley, Whitehead, Renouf, Hyde, Gentles, Owen, Gale, Field, Peach, Wood, Dodd, Andrade, Bell.
Subs (all used): Clayton, Taylor, Sanderson, Marshall.
Tries: Stanley (13’), Clayton (48’), Renouf (70’), Wood (78’)
Goals: Stanley (4/5)
Sent-off: Marshall (40’)
York’s star player: Tara Stanley. Led York brilliantly from the back and was Leeds never got to grips with her left step.
Leeds: Goldthorp, Gaines, Butcher, Beevers, Hulme, Roche, Cudjoe, Anderson, Bennett, Lockwood, Kerrigan, Watson, Hornby.
Subs (all used): Barnes, Johnson, Lacey, Fraine.
Tries: Horby (8’, 66’)
Goals: Hulme (1/2)
Sin-bin: Cudjoe (40’)
Goal-line drop-outs: 1-0