Women’s Cup final, Castleford v Leeds: Sinead Peach aiming to taste success at last

CUP finals are all about ecstasy and agony and having twice been on the wrong end of the experience, Castleford Tigers’ Sinead Peach is hoping to make it third time lucky on Saturday.

Final showdown: Castleford's Sinead Peach being tackled by Leeds duo Shannon Lacey and Sophie Nuttall in an earlier encounter.

Peach was a member of the Featherstone Rovers side which lost to Bradford Bulls in the 2017 Women’s Challenge Cup final and collected another runners-up medal a year ago when Tigers were beaten by Leeds Rhinos.

A rematch of that game will take place at University of Bolton Stadium (11.15am) and this time Castleford will go in as hot favourites.

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They are top of Women’s Super League and whitewashed Rhinos 27-0 in April and Peach, who is from Leeds, is confident they will get the job done if they produce their best rugby.

“We haven’t really looked at Leeds when we have been training,” said Peach.

“We’ve just been focusing on our own ability as a team.

“We haven’t analysed them, we are just having confidence in what we can do and, hopefully, that will be recognised Saturday.”

Her experience over the past two years has given Peach an insight into how much the women’s game is growing.

The 2017 final was played at the Heworth amateur club in York and Warrington Wolves’ HJ Stadium hosted last year’s decider.

For the first time, this season’s women’s finalists were included at the Rugby Football League’s annual media conference to preview the men’s semi-finals, which also take place at Bolton today.

“It is amazing for the women’s game,” said Peach of being among such illustrious company. “Three years ago, it was nothing like this. It is amazing how much it is growing.”

Peach started as an Under-15 at local club Hunslet Warriors, when she “had to start my own team to play” and then went to Featherstone as soon she turned 16. She was called up by England during her time with Rovers, but reckons her game has come on even further at Cas under coach Lindsay Anfield.

“Lindsay and all the coaches drill into us all the core skills and defence – they are really high-standard coaches,” she said. “We love them, it is good. All the girls want to do is play good rugby and to get silverware on top of that would be amazing.”

Tigers have been setting a lead off the pitch as well as on it in 2019, attracting four-figure gates to home games at the Jungle.

“Seb (Sternik) our media guy is really good, he promotes it like there’s no tomorrow,” added Peach.

“There’s a full bus of Cas fans travelling to the final and it’s amazing, it really motivates the girls, the fans getting behind us.

“We are dealing with the pressure and being able to do that is good. With it being a triple-header, it should be a big crowd.

“Hopefully, by the second half there’ll be a good few people there watching. Daryl (Powell) has come into the changing room a few times, at half-time or before the game. It is nice to get that little bit of recognition off them.”

Leeds forward Aimee Staveley concurs about how the game is progressing.

She said: “It is really growing, The volume of players coming through now is really good.The academies and girls’ teams are filtering players through. We have had a lot come through our Under-19s into the first team and a lot are playing with us now.

“It is amazing and I think the final promotes it massively, the fact it is so out there and publicised. I definitely think there’s a lot more supporters for the women’s game now. I don’t think it is where it should be yet, but it’s definitely going in the right direction.”

Castleford’s England forward Rhiannion Marshall has been cleared to play against her former side Leeds.

Marshall had a suspension reduced at an independent disciplinary hearing.

She served three matches of a four-match ban following an incident in a fixture against Bradford in June, but Castleford took up the option of appealing against the severity of the punishment.

The panel ruled the incident did not merit such a severe suspension, especially considering her good disciplinary record over a 10-year career, so she will be available to line up against Leeds.