YORK Valkyrie suffered their first Betfred Women’s Super League defeat in almost two years as Leeds Rhinos atoned for their Grand Final loss with a 16-10 victory at the LNER Community Stadium.

The Valkyrie’s run had stretched from a 12-4 defeat at St Helens in July 2022, but in truth, they could have little complaint against a Rhinos outfit with revenge firmly in their minds.

Lindsay Anfield’s side did strike first through Eboni Partington just before the quarter-hour, but the Rhinos held a narrow lead at the interval thanks to a Shona Hoyle try and Ruby Enright penalty.

And they carried that momentum into a second half in which they were on top for the majority, Caitlin Beevers extending their lead before Enright slotted over another penalty, with Lacey Owen’s reply too late to turn the game on its head.

Whilst the Valkyrie have now faced both of their main title rivals, they must tighten up their mistakes if they are to claim an unprecedented third consecutive League Leaders’ Shield come the end of the season.

A break from league action now beckons, as they make the trip to Doncaster to face St Helens in the semi finals of the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup next Saturday (11.15am).

Anfield named a much-changed team from the Valkyrie’s 28-8 victory at Barrow Raiders two weeks ago, with Georgie Hetherington, Alex Stimpson, Lacey Owen and Carrie Roberts among those to return to the starting line-up.

Former Canberra captain Remi Wilton was handed her home debut from the bench, on which youngster Izzy Brennan was also named after impressing for Sheffield Eagles and at the Nines festival last weekend.

Leeds themselves named a strong side, with big hitters Caitlin Beevers, Amy Hardcastle, Keara Bennett and Shona Hoyle all included alongside former Valkyrie pair Grace Field and Liv Whitehead.

The first half was characteristically tight, with little to separate the teams as the sun shone in North Yorkshire.

Leeds opted to go short from the kick-off, with Emma Kershaw taking the first tackle just inside her own half, but after completing their set, Whitehead did well to collect Stanley’s kick on the last and avoid being bundled into touch.

The Valkyrie’s errors soon began to show however, with a loose pass along the line to Tara Jane Stanley breaking down an attack on the 30-metre line, before a penalty coughed up for holding on the impressive Beevers almost saw Enright across on the right edge.

Leeds were handed another opportunity after Enright was tackled high by a combination of Sade Rihari and Savannah Andrade on her 20-metre line, but a handling error from the resultant penalty instead presented the hosts with the field position to break the deadlock shortly before the quarter-hour.

Drawing the Rhinos’ right edge defence infield, Stanley took advantage to find Tamzin Renouf, who fed Partington to surge across into the left corner.

York Press: Eboni Partington opened the scoring into the left corner.Eboni Partington opened the scoring into the left corner. (Image: Alan Milner/Milner Creative / York RLFC)

Stanley added the extras in her only successful conversion.

Anfield’s side came close to doubling their advantage from the restart after a tip-tackle on Kershaw on halfway, but Jas Bell was brought down 10 metres short on the last.

Wilton was introduced for her home debut as the Valkyrie looked to their bench to extend their lead, but they instead found themselves on level terms.

Their defence was nowhere to be seen as Beevers broke forward at pace from the 40-metre line before offloading to the supporting Hoyle, who sidestepped Owen’s tackle to crash over to the left of the posts.

Enright tagged on the extras with ease.

York made the best possible start from the restart as Stanley’s kick-off was spilled by Hanna Butcher, but Roberts lost possession as she looked to power her way across into the right corner.

Opportunities kept falling the Valkyrie’s way, with a poor offload to Beevers presenting them with a scrum on the 30-metre line, but an error at the play-the-ball relieved the pressure on the Leeds defence.

The Rhinos instead coughed up their own penalty for a play-the-ball error from the next set, but the Valkyrie opted to run the ball rather than call for the tee, a perhaps baffling decision that ultimately proved costly.

After having seen Andrade penalised for a high tackle as they peppered the try-line, the Rhinos did not make the same mistake, Enright wasting no time in slotting over another two points to turn the game on its head at 8-6 less than a minute before the half-time hooter.

An uncharacteristic knock-on from Stanley as she gathered Casey’s kick just minutes after the break proved the story of a second half that saw the Rhinos pile on the pressure.

The Valkyrie saw the better of the early exchanges, Kershaw winning them a 20-metre restart from Casey’s cross-field chip before Owen was brought down narrowly short on the last.

However, they continued to make mistakes - giving away a penalty and then a six-again within their own half - but recovered to prevent themselves falling further behind, despite a neat move from Hoyle to recycle the ball on the last.

Youngster Jess Sharp was forced off with injury 10 minutes into the half, and things threatened to go from bad to worse as Bella Sykes found enough space to grubber, but Liv Gale was down quickly to claim.

Rhiannion Marshall came close to adding her name to the scoresheet after a dart underneath the posts, but as soon as Leeds had almost found themselves pegged back, they edged further in front.

Evie Cousins broke to the 40-metre line before earning a perhaps fortuitous six-again, with Beevers racing through a gap in the Valkyrie’s defence and into the left corner shortly before the hour.

Enright added an outstanding touchline conversion, a pivotal moment that saw the tie swing in Leeds’ favour.

York Press: Emma Kershaw was perhaps unfortunate to see an effort ruled out.Emma Kershaw was perhaps unfortunate to see an effort ruled out. (Image: Alan Milner/Milner Creative/York RLFC)

A penalty for offside looked to have seen the Valkyrie respond immediately after Kershaw crashed over into the corner, but referee Matty Lynn brought play back for a push on the marker.

Seemingly rattled, York then gave away their own trio of penalties, Enright making no mistake from the tee after interference at the ruck 15 metres from the line.

Leeds’ play was just as sloppy at the other end of the pitch but having won a scrum on the 10-metre line, the Valkyrie lost the ball in the first play.

However, they did hit back with six minutes remaining, as after taking a scrum quickly, Stanley drove for the 20-metre line, with Hetherington finding Owen, who stepped back inside and crashed over to the left of the posts.

Stanley’s attempt from the tee was short, handing Leeds what could prove a vital two points come the end of the season and seeing their long unbeaten run come to a crashing halt.

YORK VALKYRIE: Stanley, Partington, Renouf, Roberts, Kershaw, Rihari, Gale, Wood, Hetherington, Stimpson, Owen, Andrade, Bell.

INTERCHANGES: Marshall, Sharp, Wilton, Brennan.

TRIES: Partington (14), Owen (74)

GOALS: Stanley 1/2

LEEDS RHINOS: Enright, Whitehead, Beevers, Hardcastle, Cousins, Butcher, Casey, Field, Bennett, Northrop, Hoyle, Murray, Dainton.

INTERCHANGES: Robinson, Hornby, Sykes, Donnelly.

TRIES: Hoyle (25), Beevers (57)

GOALS: Enright 4/4

POINTS SEQUENCE: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 6-8, 6-12, 6-14, 6-16, 10-16.


YORK’S STAR WOMAN: Savannah Andrade. An outstanding defensive shift from the second-rower.

REFEREE: Matty Lynn