By Sebastian Sternik
History has been made as the Castleford Tigers Ladies picked up a 26-18 victory over Wigan St Patrick Ladies in their women’s Premier Division debut.
Castleford established a women’s team last August and this win marks the beginning of a new journey for the Tigers.
Kelsey Gentles scored a hat-trick on what proved to be a successful debut for Castleford. Jasmine Earnshaw Cudjoe and Ellie Lamb also got tries while Katie Hepworth kicked three successful conversions. For Wigan, this was their first defeat of the new season following their win over Featherstone two weeks ago.
Castleford started well and took the lead early when Gentles raced past the Wigan defence for her first try. The home side looked strong and soon scored again, this time through Cudjoe. Leigh Powell was brought down on the edge of the try line but a terrific off-load to Cudjoe saw the Tigresses take a 10-0 lead.
The match began to even out however, Castleford were more clinical and made their chances count. Lamb received the ball from Lucy Eastwood on the half way line and raced down the right wing to score her first of the new campaign.
With a minute to go until half time, Gentles scored her second of the game. Another run from around the half way line was enough to beat the Wigan defence.
The visitors were 22-0 down at the break and pilled on the pressure from the very beginning of the second period. Their hard work soon paid off when Joanie Aspin scored to give St Pats a lifeline.
Castleford were under growing pressure but extended their advantage when Gentles completed her hat-trick. The home side moved the ball down the left side until Shanelle Mannion picked out Gentles with a sensational off-load, giving Castleford a 26-6 lead.
The clock was winding down but the pressure from Wigan just kept on growing. Robyn Birchall found a gap through Castleford’s defence and pulled back their 20 point lead to just 14. Then Aspin scored for a second time to set up a very tense finale.
In the end though, their late flurry turned out to be too little too late as Castleford closed out the game winning 26-18.
Speaking after the game assistant head coach, Jonny Payne, said: “It’s obviously good to get your first win of the season. We started really well, took a 22 point lead into the second half but the second half was poor. There’s a few things we need to fix up but as I say, it’s positive to get a good win to start.”
Sarah Harrison, who kicked one of the conversions for Wigan also reflected on her side’s performance. She said: “We turned up from last week, a 10-4 win against Fev, with a good attitude on the way here. After that we got onto the pitch and were a bit stunned by Castleford. They’re a great side with a lot of internationals. Obviously second half for us was a lot better than our first.”
Earlier this month Castleford took on the current English and European champions Thatto Heath Ladies in a friendly. Next up for the Tigresses is a visit to Leigh where they will be looking for a second successive win. Wigan, on the other hand, will enjoy a week off before also taking on Leigh in a couple of weeks’ time.