Wigan St. Patrick earned a late 14-12 victory over Stanningley to win the 2017 Challenge Cup.
Stanningley led at half time thanks to tries from Tasha Gaines and Rachael Barker but in the end it wasn’t enough as Wigan fought back to claim a famous victory. Tries from Alex Simpson, Naomi Williams and Rachael Porter put the Lancashire side on level terms but it was Gemma Hennessey’s late conversion which sealed the win.
The match was on a knife edge from the very beginning. With wet conditions making things tricky, both teams set a cautious pace to the game. Wigan made a good start and enjoyed most of the possession in the opening 15 minutes however, the momentum then shifted in favour of Stanningley.
The Yorkshire outfit threatened in attack but the breakthrough finally came in the 25th minute. Sarah Gaines picked out Tasha Gaines who then exploited a large gap in the Wigan defence to give Stanningley the lead.
St. Pats searched for an immediate response and almost got it, only to be denied by the official. Kerry-Ann Smith released Becky Greenfield who thought she scored the equalising try however, the official deemed it a forward pass and so the Wigan celebrations were halted.
No more than two minutes later, Wigan did finally get points on the board. Lydia Binsteed released Alex Simpson who powered down the right wing to give her side the four points.
Minutes before the half-time whistle, Stanningley scored a second try to build an 8 point advantage over their opponents. Rachael Barker barged her way through Wigan’s defence and touched down to make it 12-4 for the current Premier Division table toppers.
Second half started similarly to the first. It was an edgy affair as both teams looked to avoid making easy mistakes in ever worsening conditions. This time though, it was Wigan who scored first as Naomi Williams went over for the Lancashire side. However, another missed conversion meant the St. Pats were still four points short.
The match was now wide open and with 20 minutes to go, Stanningley almost scored a third try when Kelsey Armistead came within inches of the try line.
Time was running out for Wigan who were still in desperate need of a try. But with 5 minutes to go, the big breakthrough finally arrived. Williams was held up around 10 meters away from the oppositions try line. She managed to find Charlotte Foley with a quick off load. Foley then found Rachel Porter who drove across the line to put her side level 12-12.
All eyes were now on Gemma Hennessey and the conversion. The half-back didn’t disappoint but did make everyone hold their breath as the ball bounced off the post and in. Her successful kick put Wigan ahead for the first time in the Final and that’s the way it finished.
Wigan’s head coach, Chris Greenfield, was thrilled with the win. He said: “It was close all the way through. I thought Stanningley played really well but it was us who came through in the end.”
Stanningley’s head coach, Darren Woods, was understandably frustrated by the result and said: “I don’t think we performed like we have done all season. I though we allowed Wigan to stay in the game. They fought all the way to the end. I don’t think they deserved to win it but then again, when you keep fighting sometimes you get those results and they got that today.”
Despite the defeat, Stanningley still remain top of the women’s Premier Division and will certainly have their sights on the league competition. For Wigan this is a huge win which not only earns them silverware but also gives them a tonne of momentum heading into the remainder of the season.
Wigan St. Patrick’s 14
Tries: Alex Simpson, Naomi Williams, Rachael Porter
Goals: Gemma Hennessey
Tries: Tasha Gaines, Rachael Barker
Goals: Tasha Gaines (2)
Venue: LD Nutrition Stadium, Featherstone