St Helens came from behind to retain the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup with an 18-8 win over Leeds in the final in front of a UK record crowd of 5,888 at Elland Road.
Captain Jodie Cunningham, the England international and reigning Woman of Steel, scored the match-winning try 17 minutes from the end to complete the fightback after Saints had trailed 8-4 at half-time.
Leeds forward Zoe Hornby became the first player to score points against the champions in 2022 when she burst over for the game’s first try after 14 minutes.
Courtney Winfield-Hill added the goal and the Rhinos were good value for their 6-0 lead, which would have been bigger had Elychia Watson been able to hold onto the ball with the tryline beckoning.
It took St Helens 33 minutes to breach the Leeds defence, winger Leah Burke collecting stand-off Zoe Harris’ perfectly-weighted kick to the corner to score the holders’ first try.
Winfield-Hill made it 8-4 with a 40-metre penalty on the stroke of half-time but Saints winger Eboni Partington brought the scores level eight minutes into the second half when she pounced for a try after Leeds failed to clear the danger caused by Bethany Stott’s kick to the line.
The crucial moment came after 63 minutes when Courtney-Hill was narrowly wide with a penalty goal that would have restored her side’s lead and watched on as Saints worked their way upfield for Cunningham to force her way over the try that put the holders in front for the first time.
Stott converted and Saints added a fourth try two minutes from the end when centre Amy Hardcastle got Partington over for her second.