Tom Halliwell scored a late try to snatch a comeback victory as England were crowned Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup champions for the second time with a 28-24 triumph over France in a pulsating encounter in Manchester.
After a tight opening to proceedings, France took the lead with Nicolas Clausells’ penalty conversion and further tries from Lionel Alazard and Mostefa Abassi but England struck back twice as Halliwell and Jack Brown wheeled over, while France held a narrow advantage heading into the break.
England shifted the momentum in the second period and turned the game around with efforts from Lewis King and Brown but Gilles Clausells hit back for the French before a succession of penalties made the game level.
🏴 THE @RLWC2021 WHEELCHAIR WINNERS!
— England Rugby League (@England_RL) November 18, 2022
But player of the match Halliwell proved to be the hero with a try three minutes from time to land World Cup glory for England in front of a record crowd of 4,526.
The two best teams in the tournament played out an even start but France nudged themselves into the lead thanks to Alazard’s penalty kick in the opening minutes and he also got the first try of the encounter when he barged over the in-goal.
After a rather sluggish start, England were in the ascendency midway through the half as they were brandished a new set of six when Jeremy Bourson pushed Joe Coyd, he then slipped in skipper Halliwell, who ran underneath the sticks to help reduce the deficit to two points.
France regained the initiative with 10 minutes of the first half to play after a quick combination of passes found Abassi with acres of space on the right and he flew over the whitewash with ease.
Interchange Brown provided some impotence for England and he poked a hole through the French defence to narrow the score back to two heading into the half-time break.
If England were slow out of the traps in the first half, they could not be blamed for being so in the second after King wheeled over less than a minute into the second period to put them 16-14 to the good.
England extended their advantage 13 minutes into the half after Seb Bechara teed up Brown to grab his second of the final to hand his side an eight-point lead.
France had an instant response after Gilles Clausells was handed the ball by nephew Nicolas, he weaved his way through the England defence to take the deficit back to two with a quarter of the game to play.
More twists and turns followed after Bechara’s double tag gave France a chance to level proceedings and Nicolas Clausells successfully kicked the resulting penalty to bring the scores level.
Both sides kicked two further penalties as the scores remained square heading into the final 10 minutes.
Pressure was beginning to tell as Nicolas Clausells missed his first kick to deny Les Bleus a lead and the were made to pay as Halliwell pierced the French defence to hand England the trophy for the second time.