Leigh Leopards 8 Barrow Raiders 14
Leigh Leopards Women’s team’s inaugural season came to an end at the LNER Community Stadium in York as they just lost out on promotion after a tense and thrilling game against Barrow Raiders.
The Raiders now join Divisional champions Featherstone Rovers in an expanded eight-team elite Women’s Super League next season.
Two tries by Hatice Dogus in the second half gave the Leopards an 8-2 lead but the Raiders came back strongly to score two converted tries.
Despite the disappointment of the result head coach Kieron Purtill focused on a successful season for his side.
“It was a game of small margins, a tough and competitive game as all our games have been this season against Barrow,” he said.
“I’m really proud of all the girls, for the season we’ve had and the journey we’re on- and that journey hasn’t finished yet.
“There wasn’t a lot in the game, just two points in the first half and then we created and took a couple of opportunities. But Barrow came back and all credit to them.
“It was a high quality game, really intense and with lots of collisions, a really good advert for the women’s game.
“We have made massive strides over the season and now have the building blocks in place to develop further. The club is in good hands.”
The Leopards fought through adversity, losing star winger Elise Gater midway through the first half after she’d suffered a high shot in the first minute and then a couple of heavy collisions. Then influential ex-international halfback Beth Stott was unable to resume after being hit full on in the face at marker from an attempted kick down field.
Jodie Litherland kicked Barrow into the lead with a penalty goal on the half hour mark, awarded against the Leopards when in possession. That kick proved the only scoring in a tight and attritional first half with defences well on top.
The Leopards hit the front seven minutes after the resumption when they moved the ball quickly to the left wing and Keli Morris and Mackenzie Taylor combined to send Dogus in at the corner.
Just before the hour-mark Dogus grabbed her second following an Emma Knowles kick. Knowles’s angled conversion attempt, which if successful would have brought up her century of points for the season, rebounded off the upright.
The Raiders forced a ten-metre scrum following a long raking kick and capitalised on an intense spell of pressure when their hooker Beth Lindsay dived over from acting halfback and Litherland’s conversion levelled the scores at 8-8.
Just ten minutes remained when the Raiders clinched the game following another spell of pressure when Jodie Morley crossed and Litherland’s third goal sealed their second- and most important- win in four attempts against the Leopards this season.
Leopards: Isla Aspden; Toryn Blackwood, Rhianna Burke, Mackenzie Taylor, Elise Gater; Beth Stott, Emma Knowles; Mairead Quinn (capt), Kate Howard, Keira McCosh, Keli Morris, Charlotte Melvin, Ellise Derbyshire. Bench: Rebecca Owen, Grace Hill, Claire Collins, Hatice Dogus.
Tries: Dogus (47, 59); Goals: Knowles 0/ 2.
Barrow scorers, Tries: Lindsay (65), Morley (70); Goals: Litherland 3/ 3.