Women’s Challenge Cup: Saints back involved as Wigan look to bounce back from York whitewash

After a week off, St Helens Women are back in Challenge Cup group stage action while Wigan Warriors Women must secure their own progress into the knockout stages in their respective final group game having been defeated heavily by York City Knights Ladies last weekend.

Winners of the competition last season – along with the Women’s Super League Leaders’ Shield and Grand Final – Saints have been placed into Group A which they currently top, all four teams in it having played one of three games each.

Derek Hardman’s side now face the British Army Women on Sunday – March 27 – looking to cement their place in the last eight.

He says his side are fighting fit ahead of the match at the Totally Wicked Stadium, the same venue that the men’s team play their home games at.

 “I’m really pleased with the girls after that win up at Barrow Raiders Ladies [68-0] in the opening game,” Hardman said.

“You can have the greatest pre-season in the world, but you only get a true mark of where you’re at when you step out onto a pitch and get playing in a game for 80 minutes.

“We looked strong physically, and have done in training since, so it’s a great start for us ahead of the British Army girls coming to our place this weekend.

“There’s always room for improvement but we’re really looking forward to this weekend’s game.

“I really like that we play at the same ground as the first team do, not many in the women’s game have that luxury.

“Hopefully both us and the men [Challenge Cup and Grand Final winners last season] can have a really successful year again.”

Jodie Cunningham of St Helens runs with the ball during the Betfred Women’s Super League Cup Final match between York City Knights and St Helens at Leigh Sports Village on June 05, 2021 in Leigh, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

Elsewhere in the Women’s Challenge Cup this weekend, Sunday sees Wigan Warriors welcome Championship outfit Dewsbury Moor to Robin Park Arena in their third and final group stage game.

The Warriors are second in group C with one win from their opening two. However, they lost 46-0 away at York last weekend, and now can’t afford to slip up against a side from the league below if they are to get through to the quarter final stage.

Post-match at York’s LNER Community stadium, Warriors Women head coach Kris Ratcliffe admitted his side were fortunate that the competition no longer operates a knockout format from the start as it has done in previous years.

 “It was only 16-0 when we came in at half time and we put up a good fight,” Ratcliffe said.

“I think we gave up a little bit too soon in the second half when we should’ve been showing resilience.

“That game has gone now though and luckily, because of the new system this season in the Women’s Challenge Cup, we’re not out of it.

“We need to go and win against Dewsbury and then hopefully, other results dependent, we’ll get into those knockouts for a second chance at it.”

Fellow North West side Leigh Miners Rangers Ladies also play the second of their three group stage games in the competition on Sunday, welcoming Huddersfield Giants Women.