“ULTIMATELY we can be nothing but proud of what we’ve done this year.”

So said director of rugby Lindsay Anfield as York City Knights Ladies’ season came to an end with a 22-18 defeat against Leeds Rhinos in Betfred Women’s Super League semi-finals.

The Knights have seen a dramatic upturn in their fortunes since the arrival of ex-Castleford and current England boss Anfield, who has brought in a raft of star players to a group which won just once in their previous campaign.

Anfield has turned York into firm title-challengers and they were only narrowly beaten by the now three-time Grand Finalists Leeds at St Helens’ Totally Wicked Stadium, with the Knights still aiming for their first league final.

Reflecting on the achievements of the club this year, Anfield said: “I’m really proud of the girls and what the club has achieved in such a short space of time in 2021.

“The buy-in from everyone involved, it’s been unbelievable.

“To perform like we did on that stage was really pleasing. But to get beat by such a small margin was gutting, to say the least.

“But when you look back on the season that we have had, it’s got to be pleasing.

“Ultimately we can be nothing but proud of what we’ve done this year and the improvements we’ve made.”

York led 14-4 at half-time before star half-back Courtney Winfield-Hill inspired Leeds to victory with a try and three goals in the second half.

“I thought that Courtney was the difference,” admitted Anfield.

“She has got the experience in big games and she stepped up when a lot of the other players were probably starting to fatigue.

“She just controlled the game and I think our lack of experience in these games probably told.

“There was potentially a lack of fitness by the end of the 80 minutes as well. In the last 20 minutes we were struggling to get through our sets.

“It’s definitely a learning curve for us.”

Looking ahead, Anfield insists that York will have to keep on improving through the off-season in order to ensure they remain as part of the women’s game’s top three, which also includes Leeds and St Helens.

She said: “When we first came in, we aimed this year to get in the top six. We didn’t want to be fighting in the bottom two.

“We then became a top four team and then towards the back end of the season I think we definitely cemented ourselves as a top three team.

“That’s a great place to be. But Saints are going to want to keep improving, as will Leeds, so we’ve got to do the same to keep up with them.

“That’s our task going forward in the next couple of seasons.”