YORK Valkyrie gained revenge on fierce rivals Leeds Rhinos with a thrilling 16-6 victory in the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final this afternoon.

A record 4,547 fans packed into the LNER Community Stadium to witness the Valkyrie claim their first Grand Final victory, writing the wrongs of last year’s 12-4 defeat to the Rhinos in St Helens.

The Grand Final Trophy is the second piece of silverware for Lindsay Anfield’s side this season, having also lifted the League Leaders’ Shield in front of their home crowd last month.

The Valkyrie survived a shaky start to proceedings that saw them come close to falling behind three minutes into the contest but Tamzin Renouf gave them the lead with 13 minutes played before Tara Jane Stanley added her name to the scoresheet shortly before the interval.

Though Leeds struck first after the break from the tee, a Valkyrie penalty and Lacey Owen try confirmed victory, despite Caitlin Casey crossing the whitewash after the final hooter.

A fitting end to the season for the Valkyrie, with a lot of optimism for 2024.

RECAP: York Valkyrie 16-6 Leeds Rhinos - BWSL Grand Final

Anfield made two changes to the side that beat Wigan Warriors in the Semi Final two weeks ago, with Georgie Hetherington making her return from concussion and Daisy Sanderson returning to the interchange bench.

Lois Forsell named a similarly strong Rhinos team, including Caitlin Beevers, who had scored twice in last year’s Grand Final and Woman of Steel nominee Keara Bennett at hooker, whilst captain Hanna Butcher started at half-back rather than in her usual role in the centres.

York made a nightmare start in front of the raucous crowd, Peach presenting Leeds with the first opportunity from the kick off after fumbling the play of the ball on her 40-metre line.

Though the Valkyrie defence held out, they could not prevent the game’s first goal-line drop out and had the video referee to thank for not finding themselves a try behind three minutes into proceedings.

Beevers thought that she had crashed over on the left edge, but former St Helens centre Carrie Roberts denied her superbly a couple of metres short.

York then began to settle into the encounter, drawing first blood after capitalising on the field position gained from a ball strip on half-back Sade Rihari.

With Stanley’s penalty finding touch on the 20, a neat show of hands saw the ball worked to Renouf, who brought up 100 points in the city’s colours with a fantastic drive through two defenders and into the left corner.

York Press: Tamzin Renouf opened the scoring for the Valkyrie with 13 minutes played.Tamzin Renouf opened the scoring for the Valkyrie with 13 minutes played. (Image: Ed Sykes/SWPix.com)

The Valkyrie had further chances to add to their lead in the minutes that followed but squandered both a fine opportunity from inside the 10-metre line on the last tackle and field position from a Leeds knock-on.

Knowing what was at stake, big hits became characteristic of both sides’ play, with interchange prop Rhiannion Marshall and second-rower Savannah Andrade leading the way for the Valkyrie.

Leeds threatened to hit back, Butcher coming within inches of the whitewash with a late drive before Emma Kershaw did just enough to prevent conceding a goal-line drop-out after a dangerous Casey kick.

But from a scrum, the Valkyrie ensured that the first half ended with momentum firmly in their favour, Stanley displaying some outstanding footwork to weave past two would-be tacklers before racing from the 20-metre line and into the right corner to bring up her 350th York points.

Though the reigning Woman of Steel was unable to convert both tries, her side still held a deserved 8-0 lead at the break.

However, Leeds came out with a fire underneath them after the interval as they looked to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.

A poor Peach offload, followed by two high tackles within 20 metres of the line saw York’s backs against the wall, Ruby Enright dragging her side onto the scoreboard from the latter penalty five minutes into the half.

Similar pressure ensued from the kick-off, but a fumble from Lockwood five metres from the line spared the Valkyrie’s blushes.

York Press: The match proved to be a battling and physical affair throughout.The match proved to be a battling and physical affair throughout. (Image: Ed Sykes/SWPix.com)

Despite being in the ascendancy, Leeds continued to be frustrated by their hosts, with both Stanley and Roberts superbly fielding Casey’s kicks against a strong chase as Anfield’s side weathered the West Yorkshire storm.

Those frustrations paid dividends for the Valkyrie, who added their next points from the tee with 58 minutes played, Stanley making no mistake with her penalty after the Rhinos had been penalised for a knock-on and then a ball strip 10 metres from the line.

Things went from bad to worse for Leeds after another mistake at the back three minutes later as Sophie Nuttall dropped Stanley’s kick on her 20-metre line.

Despite Stanley’s progress being halted, from the next play, Peach found Liv Gale, whose drop-off pass for Owen saw the second-rower cut inside before diving across just to the left of the posts.

The full-back landed her first conversion of the afternoon, firing the Valkyrie into an almost unassailable 14-point lead with a little over 15 minutes left to play.

French prop Elisa Akpa couldn’t hold on to an offload as she bore down on the whitewash, before Roberts excellently fielded another dangerous Casey kick as the game returned to its end-to-end nature but it was Leeds who came closest to wrestling their way back into the contest inside the final five minutes.

Akpa knocked-on as she looked to gather a Rhinos grubber, but despite a neat show of hands towards the right edge, Leeds found their final pass lacking in another let-off for the Valkyrie back line.

Forsell’s side were eventually rewarded from the final play of the game after the hooter, Casey strolling across the whitewash to score a consolation for the reigning champions amid the Valkyrie’s celebrations.

YORK VALKYRIE: Stanley, Kershaw, Renouf, Roberts, Hetherington, Rihari, Gale, Akpa, Peach, Staveley, Andrade, Owen, Wood.

INTERCHANGES: Bell, Marshall, Hyde, Sanderson.

TRIES: Renouf (13), Stanley (39), Owen (61)

GOALS: Stanley 2/4

LEEDS RHINOS: Enright, Nuttall, Hardcastle, Beevers, Robinson, Casey, Butcher, Northrop, Bennett, Hornby, Murray, Greening, Dainton.

INTERCHANGES: Cudjoe, Lockwood, Glynn, Sykes.

TRIES: Casey (80)

GOALS: Enright 1/1

POINTS SEQUENCE: 4-0, 8-0, 8-2, 10-2, 14-2, 16-2, 16-6


YORK’S STAR WOMAN: Lacey Owen. The second-rower was outstanding both in attack and defensively, with her try a just reward for her performance.


REFEREE: Liam Rush