France vs England
Wheelchair World Cup 7:30pm Friday 18th November
Last Updated: 18/11/22 10:19pm
Tom Halliwell’s try two minutes from time saw England clinch the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup with a 28-24 win over reigning champions France in the final.
Just two points separated the teams at half-time at Manchester Central, with France holding a slender 14-12 advantage thanks to converted tries from Lionel Alazard, who also added a penalty, and Mostefa Abassi.
England kept within touching distance at the break though thanks to Halliwell scoring under the posts and interchange man Jack Brown crossing on the stroke of half-time soon after having a possible score chalked off, with Robert Hawkins and Nathan Collins converting too.
It was just as nip-and-tuck after the break, with Lewis King and Brown going over for the hosts, Gilles Clausells replying for France, and Nico Clausells and Collins exchanging penalties. But it was Halliwell who had the final word, with skipper and player of the match Halliwell crossing late on to bring the Wheelchair World Cup back to these shores for the first time since 2008.
This was the third World Cup final in a row the two leading wheelchair rugby league nations had met each other, although on those previous occasions it was France who narrowly prevailed by the margins of two and four points respectively.
England: Tries – Tom Halliwell (2), Jack Brown (2), Lewis King; Goals – Nathan Collins (3), Robert Hawkins.
France: Tries – Lionel Alazard, Mostefa Abassi, Gilles Clausells; Goals – Nico Clausells (5), Lionel Alazard.
Although the hosts triumphed 62-48 when these sides met in a mid-year international in June, this contest showed every sign of being as close-fought as the 2013 and 2017 final, something which was indicated by Alazard opting to kick at goal from an early penalty.
Having kicked that goal, Alazard then grabbed the first try of the night in the 10th minute after finding space out wide and crashing through the England defence to finish for a score converted by Nico Clausells.
Joe Coyd’s kicking game caused all sorts of problems for France though and when one of those led to a knock-on followed by a penalty, it allowed England to set up an attack which was finished when Halliwell weaved through the defence to finish on 10 minutes.
France regained their eight-point advantage in the 29th minute when, following some strong defence on their own try-line from England, Bourson looped a pass out wide to Abassi for him to cross on the right for another converted score.
Former Golden Boot winner Brown injected some impetus into England’s attacks after coming onto the pitch and shortly after having a try ruled out for diving over the line, he cut the deficit in the 38th minute on the back of the hosts gaining a repeat set.
Then within two minutes of the second half, England hit the front as they punished a penalty and a knock-on from France which ceded field position, shifting the ball out to the left for King to squeeze his way over for an unconverted try.
Collins and Coyd then had tries chalked off, but England were able to extend their advantage in the 53rd minute after Brown again showed some superb chair control to find the gap and cross for his second converted try of the night.
France were not done yet though and hit back following a penalty, with Gilles Clausells going over and Nico Clausells converting, followed by adding a penalty goal to draw the reigning champions level with 16 minutes to go.
However, Seb Bechara being pulled over soon after the restart allowed Collins an opportunity to edge England back in front, only for Nico Clausells to step up again and slot over his second successful penalty to set the nerves jangling with eight minutes left.
But captain Halliwell came to the fore in the 78th minute and although there was a heart-in-the-mouth moment as the officials consulted, the try was eventually given and proved enough to see the host nation seal glory in front of a record wheelchair crowd of 4,526.
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France vs England