In what proved to be a historic game for international women’s rugby league, Castleford Tigers Women claimed the inaugural HerRL Trophy against the Deesses Catalanes.
The game was initially thrown into doubt when a message came through that there would no longer be a curtain raiser.
With the message only getting through to both teams less than an hour before kick-off, the pressure was on to find a resolution. A decision was then made to move the game until after the men’s Super League clash between the Tigers and the Dragons.
While this was disappointing for many supporters, both sets of players were looking forward to playing on one of rugby league’s finest stages.
The Tigresses got off to a scintillating start when Georgia Roche finished off Castleford’s first set with a well-worked try down the left wing.
Her effort was soon followed up by a try from Courtney Pointon. The youngster received the ball out wide and raced past the defenders to make it 10-0.
The Tigers were clearly keen to exploit the large pitch and continued to stretch the Catalans back line.
Just six minutes later, Pointon got her second when once again, the Tigresses beautifully worked the ball out from left to right. Tamzin Renouf’s long ball across to Pointon may have been a tad short, but it was enough to see the winger score her second.
With the Tigers 14-0 up, the hosts replied. The French side earned a penalty 10 metres away from the Castleford try line and began to really threaten the current Super League table toppers. Bang on the 25-minute mark, they reaped rewards when Fanny Ramos found a gap in the centre of Castleford’s defence and slotted away her try under the sticks.
For the next 10 minutes, the game was all about the hosts. Catalanes had the Tigresses on the ropes but lacked a clinical edge and were unable to convert chances into further points.
The visitors weathered the storm and hit back with an effort from Lucy Eastwood. Quick movement of the ball opened up gaps and the 21-year-old took full advantage down the right edge.
In the second half, it seemed like the Tigresses found extra three gears. Kelsey Gentles got her name onto the scoresheet just two minutes after the restart. Her effort was quickly followed up by Rhiannion Marshall’s first competitive try for the Tigresses.
Lacey Owen had a try ruled out in the first half for a forward pass, but the youngster made up for it in the second half with a clever finish in the left corner.
The Tigresses simply kept their foot on the gas and showed no remorse. Further efforts, including a second for Gentles and a hat-trick try for the returning Pointon, put the visitors out of sight.
Emma Lumley put the cherry on the pie with a glorious 70-metre individual effort.
Just like that, a historic game with the Catalans came to an end.
Speaking after the game, head coach Lindsay Anfield said: “After an eventful and tiring day with kick-off being pushed back five hours our girls showed a great deal of resilience and composure to still put in a performance like that.
“We have hugely benefitted from the trip: playing in a big stadium and walking out to a very hostile crowd, as well as the appalling weather conditions. The French side were well drilled and very physical, we had to work hard for every point on the board. They certainly wouldn’t look out of place in our WSL competition.
“I would personally like to thank the Catalans staff for their hospitality, and I’m sure this will become a regular fixture in our diaries.
“We have a few bumps and bruises from the encounter but we have our eyes on Leeds now on Sunday, and are hoping for the incredible Cas fans to turn out in numbers to cheer our girls on.”
The game with Leeds Rhinos promises to be one of the biggest games of the season in the Women’s Super League.
Castleford are yet to pick up a competitive win over the Rhinos and both will be desperate to maintain their perfect start to the season. The game is a 1pm kick off at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.