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Match Report | Sheffield Eagles Women Red 10-74 York Valkyrie


By Barry Wood | Images by Andy Hayward

At last the season begins after two games postponed due to the waterlogged pitches.  But what a start, a home tie in Group 1 Round 1 of the Women’s Challenge Cup against last season’s Super League champions York Valkyrie.

Straight from receiving the kick off. York demonstrated ominously their pace and power, going 80m until surrendering possession with a knock-on 5m out from the Eagles line.  However, that power became a little overdone when it came to defending with York conceding a series of penalties, coupled with a powerful break by Judd that took the Eagles into the York 10m zone.  Some pressure and another penalty enabled the Eagles to mount some pressure.  On the last a scuffed grubber kick from Palmer found its way into the York in-goal and Wood chased through to shoulder the defenders out of the way, pouncing on the ball to score for a 4-0 lead, unfortunately not converted.

York didn’t take too long to reply. The Eagles failed to defuse the restart kick and had to drop out from under the posts, inviting immediate pressure in their red zone. Three plays later Andrade evaded her way over to score under the posts, converted by Stanley for 4-6.

And then it became a bit processional. From the restart and three plays, which included a line break, long drive and offload from Gentles, took York to within 4m of the Eagles line.  A quick play the ball against a struggling defence, and Gentles finished off what she started with a dive under the posts, converted by Stanley for 4-12.

Again from the restart the Eagles struggled to control York’s ruck speed but this time defended out five tackles, forcing Stanley on the last to make a cross field kick to the right, which was knocked-on granting the Eagles a reprieve.

A 20m restart and some decent go forward took the Eagles 15m into the York half and a handover.

Unfortunately with the Eagles unable to control the York ruck speed, the ball found its way on the fourth play wide left into the hands of England full back Stanley, who evaded and outpaced the defence to score 10m in from touch in the 21st minute, conversion unsuccessful for a score of 4-16.

From the restart York went from their 30m to 20m from the Eagles line in five tackles. This time they elected to ship the ball right on the last. Swift passing put the ball into the hands of right winger Izumi, who crossed to score 15m in from touch in the 24th minute, converted by Stanley for a lead of 4-22.

On the next restart the Eagles managed to stem the flow bringing the York attack to a halt on the sixth tackle 5m out from the Eagles try line in front of the posts.  15 tackles interspersed by 3 penalties gifted by York brought the Eagles out far left to within 3m of the York try line. Unfortunately, momentum was then lost thanks to an incorrect play the ball. 

Some better defence restricted York’s progress forcing a last tackle kick on halfway to touch on the Eagles 30m line.  Possession was short-lived with a knock-on at the play the ball, gifting York a scrum on the Eagles 40m.  Quick hands left put the ball into the hands of winger Partington who raced down to within 5m of the Eagles try line. 

An offside penalty donated York another set 10m out. Three passes out the back put the ball into the hands of Stanley who crossed 12m in from the right touch line, converting her own try for 4-28.

Immediately from the restart the Eagles inability to control York’s ruck speed and counter the evasive footwork of their players took its toll again. Four plays and Stimpson crossed under the posts, easily converted by Stanley for 4-34.

And the medicine was repeated from the restart. Four plays and Marshall crossed on the left 20m from the posts, again converted by Stanley for a half time lead of 4-40.

Half-time: Sheffield Eagles Women 4 – 40 York Valkyrie Women

After the half-time team talk and a bit of reorganisation, the Eagles resisted for six minutes until a handling error gifted York a scrum centre field 40m out from the Eagles try line.  Such was the pace and skill of left centre Renouf that the Eagles wing was attracted in, enabling winger Partington to round the edge then come back in to score 10m from the posts, converted by Stanley for 4-46.

Not long for York to repeat the first half treatment, and three minutes later Andrade stormed down the York right to cross 10m in from touch in the 49th minute, conversion usuccessful for 4-50.

Three minutes later and York were back 1m out in front of the posts. One pass to Stanley followed by an arcing run and a long pass out to left winger Partington, who crossed to score 3m in from touch in the 53rd minute, conversion successful for 4-56.

Almost the same result 4 minutes later, but York fluffed the pass and catch in front of the try line.  This time the Eagles managed to return serve.  A penalty and an injury stoppage gave the Eagles a chance to regain some composure, which they didn’t waste.  A completed set took the Eagles from their 30m to a kick fumbled by York 14m out from their own ty line, scrum to Eagles.

Three plays out left brought an offload out of the tackle by Green, quickly snapped up by Wood who wasted no time exploiting an off guard York defence to score 10m to the left of the posts, converted by Thomas for 10-56.

Encouraged by that success, the Eagles completed another sold set of six with a kick, advancing from 10m out by the right try line to York retrieving the ball 12m out from their own try line on their right, successfully preventing Stanley from making much ground. 

Solid defence restricted York to a 30m gain with York committing the sin of stepping over at the play the ball, thus handing the ball over, only for possession to be quickly surrendered with a handling error gifting York the ball back on half way.

A missed tackle up the middle and the Eagles were back under pressure. Weak defence failed to nail Andrade coming back against the grain, crossing in the 67th minute by the right side of the posts, converted by Stanley for 10-62.

A long kick restart forced a goal line dropout from York only for it to be mis-fielded with York regaining possession on their 32m.  A long break by Gentles resulted in a loose carry handing the Eagles a scrum on their own 20m.  Five plays advanced the ball to just short of half way, but the last tackle kick went out on the full handing the ball over to York 47m out.  Four plays later and Gentles crossed 11m in from the left touch line, converted by Stanley for 10-68.

A good long kick restart was then squandered by poor defensive spacing on the left by the advancing Eagles, ably exploited by Gentles, who was eventually stopped 45m out from the Eagles try line. Three plays later and the Eagles were let off the hook with a knock-on out the back, only to knock-on too two plays later.  Under pressure in their own 10m zone, the ball arrived in the next play into the hands of Bell who crashed over under the posts, converted by Stanley for the final score of the game at 10-74.


Full-Time: Sheffield Eagles Women 10 – 74 York Valkyrie Women


Eagles Tries: Wood (2)    

Goals: Thomas (1/2)


Valkyrie Tries: Andrade (3), Gentles (2), Stanley (2), Izumi, Stimpson, Marshall, Partington (2), Bell

Goals: Stanley (11/13)


In conclusion it would be easy to be pessimistic, but that would fail to recognise the gulf between the top tier of the WSL and everybody else.  Yes, it was a harsh lesson, but a very valuable lesson, nonetheless. 

Now the team have experience of what it takes to play at the highest level, and the coaches have very useful video footage with which to demonstrate how it’s done.  And let’s not forget the Eagles put 10 points on the board – not many Super League teams get to do that against York Valkyrie.