Catalans captain Sebastien Bechara: “This means so much to all of us. We were so disappointed to lose to Leeds in the final last year, and we wanted to show what we could do. I have to praise Leeds for the way they played, which made it such an enjoyable match to play in”
Last Updated: 20/08/23 4:27pm
Catalans Dragons claimed a first Betfred Wheelchair Challenge Cup title with an emphatic victory over Leeds Rhinos at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
The Dragons had been beaten by Leeds in last year’s final in Hull, but they ended the Rhinos’ four-year grip on the Cup by running in 12 tries in a sparkling performance.
Nicolas Clausells scored five of them and added eight goals for a personal haul of 36 points to earn the Player of the Match award, although he was pushed close by his uncle, Gilles, who was a constant threat and collected 10 points from two tries and a goal.
The result was especially satisfying for the Catalans captain Sebastien Bechara, a World Cup winner for England against France last autumn, who was born in Nottingham but moved to Perpignan as a youngster, and has developed as a Wheelchair Rugby League player with the Dragons since his life was changed in a motorcycle accident.
“This means so much to all of us,” said Bechara, who scored two tries and clearly relished regular clashes with his England team-mates Nathan Collins and Tom Halliwell.
“We were so disappointed to lose to Leeds in the Final after we entered the Challenge Cup last year, and we wanted to show what we could do.
“I have to praise Leeds for the way they played, which made it such an enjoyable match to play in – I hope it was also enjoyable to watch.”
Catalans streaked into an early 18-0 lead but tries from Nathan Mulhall and the outstanding Josh Butler reduced the Rhinos deficit to 18-10 before an amazing finish from Boursin, and a long-range score from Nicolas Clausells, reasserted the Dragons’ dominance before half-time.
Nathan Collins scored a third Leeds try early in the second half but by the time their captain Jodie Boyd-Ward touched down for the fourth, the Catalans’ victory was assured.
Leeds will aim to bounce back in the closing rounds of the Betfred Wheelchair Super League season, while Catalans have the chance to add the European Club Championship next week when they take on the 2022 Super League champions Halifax Panthers in Cabestany, near Perpignan.
Neil McIlory, the club’s chief executive who watched the wheelchair team complete a significant double for the Dragons after their running team won at Leigh on Saturday to pull four points clear at the top of the Betfred Super League table, said: “We are proud to have such an exciting team wearing the Dragons colours, and we will make sure the supporters have the chance to celebrate their achievement in Perpignan in the coming weeks.”
A capacity crowd had earlier seen Gravesend Dynamite hand a lesson to the Wheelchair Rugby League novices of Sheffield Eagles in the Challenge Trophy Final.
The Eagles had surpassed all expectations by qualifying for the Final in their home city in only their second full season, but had no answer to the father and son combination of Jason and Max Owen, who scored five and six tries respectively in an 88-8 win for the Kent club.
Chris Haynes and David Butler scored Sheffield’s tries – and Butler then made his own slice of history by refereeing the Challenge Cup Final