Odsal Stadium in Bradford was the venue as Huddersfield Giants met Featherstone Rovers in the Women’s Superleague 2021 round six match, the two sides coming into the game with one win each and Featherstone ahead of their opponents by virtue of a better points difference.
There was nothing to choose between the two sides on paper and the stage was set for a close game between two competitive sides looking for a boost to their season.
Inside seven minutes Brogan Churm opened the Featherstone account after an earlier ball steal regained possession on the half-way line and after working the ball downfield Churm powered through the defence for the try. Katie Hepworth added the conversion from of front of the sticks for a 6-0 lead.
Bella Sykes went close for the Giants on thirteen, just failing to get the ball on the ground as the Rovers defence held her up.
After the early try the game settled into a real battle with two great defences on show thwarting attacks.
On twenty-three Rovers went in again when Brogan Churm took a neat inside pass from Jess Courtman to again march under the sticks. Hepworth added another two pointer to double the lead.
The Giants redoubled their efforts and again had a couple of chances to register their first points but the Rovers defence held firm and they the guarded their 12-0 advantage until the interval.
The Giants had a better start to the second half and after working the ball fifty metres downfield it was Bella Sykes who went between two Featherstone defenders to get the ball down. Frankie Townend added the conversion and it was game on.
It was back-to-back tries when Bethan Oates jinked her way through the Rovers defence to score between the uprights. Townend was again on target and on fifty-two minutes the scores were level.
On fifty-seven it was Huddersfield who hit the front with Oates going over again after wrongfooting the Rovers defence to again score under the crossbar. Townend was on target again and it was eighteen unanswered points from the Giants.
Rovers got themselves back into the game on sixty-four when Chloe Billington took a pass two metres from the line and spun in the tackle to crash to the ground. Hepworth shaved the near upright with her kick, Featherstone two points adrift with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Billington made it two tries within three minutes, the second a much longer-range effort as she showed a clean pair of heels to the Giants defenders to go in under the sticks. Hepworth had a far easier kick and she re-established the Rovers lead.
The game was won on seventy-eight as Chloe Billington scored her hat-trick try, a carbon copy of her first to put Rovers 26-18 ahead. This time Hepworth converted brilliantly from the touchline to extend the lead to ten points as the final hooter sounded.
A tremendous game fought out between two dedicated sides of comparable ability. Featherstone took their chances in the first half and were good value for their lead, but it was a great second half fightback from the Giants before Rovers found their second win with three great tries from Billington. It was a close as the league positions promised, a great advert for the women’s game.
Huddersfield Giants: Curley, Loney, Rowe, Stott, Brown, Townend (3G), Oates (2T), Wilkinson, Sykes (T), Bellerby, Northrop, Taylor, Fairbank. Subs: Mena, Campbell, Hawkins, Scott.
Featherstone Rovers Squad: Dyke, Billington (3T), Dadds, Courtman, Copley, Roberts, Matthews, Churm (2T), Blackburn, McDonald, Watt, Kennedy, Hepworth (4G), Teece, Mannion, Williams, Hazell, Grace, Newby.
Referee: Andy Sweet.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12 : HT : 4-12, 6-12, 10-12, 12-12, 16-12, 18-12, 18-16, 18-20, 18-22, 18-26, 18-28 : FT.