Castleford Tigers Women are still in danger of losing their semi-final place following a 32-20 home defeat to Leeds Rhinos.
With Bradford Bulls picking up a victory over Featherstone Rovers, two points currently separate the reigning champions and the Tigresses in a heated battle for fourth.
A hat-trick for Rhiannon Marshall plus a brace for Caitlin Beevers, helped to extend Rhinos’ winning run over Castleford to three straight games.
The Challenge Cup winners enjoyed a dream start with Marshall and Beevers making it 12-0 in the opening 15 minutes. Menina Spurr then increased the lead.
Castleford finally found their feet with Emma Slowe going over to score on her debut.
But the Rhinos quickly replied with a fourth try as Beevers capitalised on a break by Frankie Townend to make it 22-6 at half-time.
Castleford started the second half well with Courtney Pointon scoring down the left flank. They stayed in the game with a great defensive effort and closed the gap further when Leeds failed to deal with a kick, allowing Tara Stanley to pounce.
The comeback hopes took a hit, however, when Marshall scored her second and added the conversion to make it 28-14.
The Tigers kept going and were rewarded as a good drive from Georgia Roche put the Rhinos on the back foot and the player quickly found Stanley who powered over.
Castleford pressed, but a high tackle in their own half proved to be their undoing. Leeds played the penalty brilliantly and Marshall completed her hat-trick.
Despite the defeat, the Tigresses are still in a strong position. A Bradford victory has put them within touching distance of Castleford but, while the Bulls have just one game remaining, the Tigresses have two.
What’s more, Bradford’s final game will be a tough contest as they take on Wigan Warriors. Castleford take on Featherstone Rovers at the Jungle next week and St Helens the week after.
The clash with Featherstone is a hugely anticipated one following recent transfers. Emma Slowe is a former Rovers player and should be available for that game while ex-Tiger Katie Hepworth, is also likely to play for Fev.