NEITHER COACH Lindsay Anfield nor player Kelsey Gentles had any complaints after Castleford Tigers were shocked 16-10 by Leeds Rhinos in the Coral Women’s Challenge Cup final.
It was Tigers’ second successive Cup final defeat to Leeds and a “very disappointed” Anfield admitted: “Last year I felt like we were probably the better team, until the last 10 minutes, but today I thought Leeds were the better team right from the start.”
Castleford led 4-0 and it was 10-10 at half-time, but a converted try midway through the second period broke Tigers’ hearts.
“Defensively they were absolutely outstanding and we just couldn’t break them down,” Anfield said of Rhinos.
“Everything we’ve been doing in training we went away from and I think that was due to Leeds’ tough graft in D [defence].
“They were deserved winners.”
Tigers are unbeaten in Super League, but Anfield felt they ”went away from everything we’ve done all season”.
She added: “Whether they thought it might be a little bit easier than it was I don’t know, but a few individuals probably didn’t show up – which is disappointing – and their big-game players really did show up for them, so credit to them.”
Winger Gentles also conceded the best team had won, though she feels Tigers will learn from their disappointment.
“This hurts,” she reflected. “We have been here before and we’re here again, we’ve just fallen short in a final.
“Credit to Leeds and congratulations to them, they were the better team.
“They defended better than us and a couple of things we’ve been training on and thought would work haven’t worked.”
The final was staged at University of Bolton Stadium before the men’s semi-finals.
The competition has come a long way since 2017 when Bradford Bulls beat Featherstone Rovers in a final played at the Heworth amateur club in York.
Gentles said: “It has been such a great day and a remarkable experience. It is something none of us will ever forget and hopefully it will keep getting bigger and bigger.”