Betfred Women’s Super League 2, Promotion Play-Off Eliminator (at Twist Lane)
Leigh Leopards 28 Salford Red Devils 10
Ellise Derbyshire ignited the Leopards’ promotion aspirations with two superb second half tries to take Kieron Purtill’s side to within 80 minutes of promotion.
The Leopards will face Barrow Raiders in the Promotion Grand Final at York on Sunday 8 October (noon kick-off) as one half of the double header with the Leeds Rhinos- York Valkyrie Grand Final.
After making a successful England RL DiSE debut in France last week, Derbyshire’s decisive contributions, which sandwiched a fine individual effort by Rhianna Burke enabled the Leopards to dominate the closing stages of a hard-fought semi-final.
Salford had fought back valiantly from 10-0 down to tie the scores thanks to tries either side of the half-time hooter to demonstrate the big improvement they’ve made over the season.
At that stage the tie was in the balance until the Leopards slipped into another gear and showed the fine attacking play that has characterised their inaugural season.
Head coach Kieron Purtill said: “We played Salford a few weeks ago and it was a close and tough game, and we expected the same again today. We weathered the storm in the first half and finished the second half in good spirits and fine form as well.
“We challenged the backs to be the best they could be, and they were excellent today. The forwards worked hard, and as we only used one sub in that first half, in the second half our work rate and energy took the game away from Salford.
“At 10-10 there was no panic and we kept our composure. We have given ourselves the chance to go up.
“Ellise has been excellent all year and plays several different positions. Her nickname is ‘The Jet’ and she showed her speed and footwork with her tries. That international experience has been good for her, and she shows international class when she plays for us.”
Elise Gater and Keli Morris scored first half tries for the Leopards with Emma Knowles landing one conversion, but Salford tries by Victoria Kini and Louise Fellingham had the game on a knife-edge until the Leopards responded to the encouragement of another bumper Twist Lane crowd to book their final place.
Derbyshire’s brace took her tally for the season to 11, two ahead of Gater and Mackenzie Taylor in the try charts, while Knowles’ four goals left her one point away from a century of points for the season.
Leopards: Isla Aspden; Toryn Blackwood, Rhianna Burke, Mackenzie Taylor, Elise Gater; Beth Stott, Emma Knowles; Mairead Quinn (capt), Kate Howard, Kiera McCosh, Keli Morris, Charlotte Melvin, Ellise Derbyshire. Bench: Victoria Rosevere, Libbi Leppert, Claire Collins, Grace Hill.
Tries: Gater (16), Morris (32), Derbyshire (56, 72), Burke (64); Goals: Knowles 4/ 5.
Red Devils: Sage Bannister; Katie Garry, Samantha Evans, Alexandra Simpson, Lauren Ellison; Louise Fellingham (capt), Demi-Lea Jones; Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Summer Harris, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans. Bench: Rebecca Davies, Sarina Tamou, Hannah Wicks, Abigail Collins.
Tries: Kini (40), Fellingham (42); Goals: Jones 1/ 2.
Referee: A Williams; Touch-judges: E Wright and O Leech. Half-time: 10-6.