Super St Helens continue Challenge Cup dominance to inflict further misery on Leeds Rhinos

Faye Gaskin inspired St Helens to a fourth straight Women’s Challenge Cup crown with a ruthless 22-0 shut-out win over Leeds at Wembley. Gaskin crashed over for the first of four Saints tries and kicked three conversions to cap a clinical performance from Matty Smith’s side who extended their grip on the trophy.

For Leeds it was an all-too-familiar story as they froze on the big stage and had run out of ideas long before the final hooter as they slid to their third final defeat in a row. Lois Forsell’s side sported the name of Rob Burrow on their shirts but could not summon a performance befitting their club hero, as further tries from Phoebe Hook, Luci McColm and Chantelle Crowl wrapped up a thoroughly one-sided Saints win.

Conscious of the need to get off to a good start after slipping away too soon on their Wembley debut in 2023, Leeds had been first to threaten after a tight and defensive first 15 minutes. But Liv Whitehead failed to capitalise when Saints full-back Beri Salihi fumbled a kick yards from her own line, and after coughing up a penalty deep in their own territory the Rhinos gifted the momentum to the holders.

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Gaskin picked up a pass from Tara Jones to jink through the Leeds line to open the scoring, and it was no surprise when they extended their lead five minutes later, this time Gaskin delivering a superbly-weighted pass to Hook who flew over in the right corner. Leeds were lucky not to slip further behind when a Gaskin kick bounced off the foot of the posts and just eluded Jodie Cunningham, whose experience was playing a huge part in keeping her opponents at bay.

Forsell’s creaking side desperately needed a big start to the second half but instead they served Saints up with their third on a plate, errors from Whitehead and Caitlin Beevers letting McColm slide over from close range. Leeds responded well, with Hanna Butcher’s searching kick well caught by Leah Burke at the back, then interchange Lucy Murray making some good metres before finding herself with nowhere to go.

Saints’ superbly-executed game-plan was slowly squeezing the life out of their opponents and by the time the excellent Zoe Harris fed Crowl to cross with 10 minutes to go, Leeds were already resigned to their familiar fate.