Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup final: Tom Halliwell late try secures trophy for England

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport at Manchester Central
Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup 2021 Final
England (12) 28
Tries: Halliwell 2, Brown 2, KingGoals: Hawkins, Collins 3
France (14) 24
Tries: Abassi, Alazard, G ClausellsGoals: Alazard, N Clausells 4

England captain Tom Halliwell scored a late try to lead his side to a famous Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup final victory over France.

The 23-year-old Leeds Rhinos player, voted player of the match, crashed over with less than three minutes left.

It was his second try of the game and sealed a famous win before a crowd of 4,526, a world record for the sport.

Although Nathan Collins missed the conversion, it was enough to make up for defeats in the past two finals.

England head coach Tom Coyd told BBC Sport: "I was crying like a baby. I don't know what to say. We knew we were going to win that game by two or four points. We said that the whole time.

"I'm just so proud of the guys and this crowd, and everyone for getting behind wheelchair rugby league and England rugby league. We just deserve it."

Coyd's side battled back from 14-6 down in the first half to lead 22-14 after 55 minutes.

In a feisty game, the French arguably had the better of the refereeing calls in the second half and the kicking of Nico Clausells, who broke English hearts five years ago with his late match-winning try, helped keep them in it.

But when Halliwell squeezed his way through the French defence, it sparked wild celebrations and gave England their second World Cup title after success in the inaugural final back in 2008.

Halliwell told BBC Sport: "We've all been working for this for five years. Everyone has been trying to get better and better. Tonight's performance put it to where we're at. We're the world's best.

"It was written in the stars, a home World Cup in front of these fans. At half-time, we said we'd win this game by four points.

"This is what it's all about. Rugby league is a community sport and wheelchair rugby league is no exception. Everybody can play this game and that's why I love it.

"I'm forever grateful for this sport. Whatever I do in my life now I'll do for this sport. I'm forever in debt."

France head coach Sylvain Crismanovich, though, was unhappy with the performance of the match officials.

He said: "Do you want the heartfelt response or the professional response? It was an exceptional England team - congratulations to England. But there was a lot of confusion around the refereeing."

Crismanovich also repeated the concern he had expressed in the build-up about the impact of non-disabled players on the game.

"There's an impact on the bodies of the players," he said. "Unfortunately today, England went for the spectacle and the show rather than prioritising the disabled players."

With the two sides so evenly matched, the final was never going to be a free-scoring spectacle and there was more defensive strength shown by both teams.

France started well and an early Lionel Alazard penalty put them ahead as they tested the English defence before Alazard went over for the game's first try, converted by Nico Clausells.

England tried to get back into the game and they got their reward when Halliwell reached over on 17 minutes for a try converted by Rob Hawkins.

Jack Brown came into the game on 26 minutes with coach Coyd hoping he could make an impact.

He went close immediately but it was France who extended their lead through Mostefa Abassi's 17th try of the tournament, converted by Clausells.

Brown had a try controversially chalked off for a double movement but just before the break he got his reward, weaving his way through with Collins adding the extras.

England started the second half the better and first Lewis King and then Brown with his second, put them in control.

But the momentum started to swing France's way and Gilles Clausells evaded a tackle to go over and two Nico Clausells goals made it a level game entering the final quarter.

Collins held his nerve with a 68th-minute penalty before Nico Clausells responded again to ensure a grandstand finish.

And England made sure they had the final say to lift the trophy.

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