Catalans Dragons become first foreign Challenge Cup winners
London (AFP) –
Catalans Dragons made history by becoming the first non-British winners in the 121 years of the Challenge Cup by beating Warrington 20-14 victory at Wembley on Saturday.
The French club were 40 minutes away from relegation from Super League 11 months ago, but will now be hoping their landmark victory will provide a boost for the game across the country.
The Catalans received a good-luck message from French president Emmanuel Macron before kick-off, but a meeting between two of the game's less fashionable names attracted a crowd of just 50,672, the lowest for more than 70 years.
That will matter little to Catalans captain Remi Casty, the sole surviving member of the Dragons team that went down 30-8 to St Helens in their only previous Cup final appearance 11 years ago, as he got his hands on the trophy.
Steve McNamara's men were good value for a 14-6 interval lead and they stretched that to 20-6 early in the second half before tiring alarmingly and in the end were grateful for the final whistle.
Catalans were more direct and purposeful from the start and took the lead inside the first two minutes.
An uncharacteristic handling error from Wolves full-back Stefan Ratchford gifted them an attacking position 10 metres out and quick hands from David Mead and Benjamin Jullien gave winger Lewis Tierney the chance to dive over at the corner.
Josh Drinkwater kicked the conversion from the touchline and made it 8-0 five minutes later with a penalty.
Substitute Ben Murdoch-Masila's try hit back for Warrington to cut the deficit to just two points, but the Dragons broke away to add a second score six minutes before the break when Benjamin Garcia forced his way over.
Drinkwater's third goal made it 14-6 and the Dragons were virtually out of sight when a kick from man-of-the-match Tony Gigot created the position for centre Brayden Wiliame to go over for their third try five minutes into the second half.
Drinkwater made it four out of four with the boot but Warrington grabbed themselves a lifeline when the Catalans scrum-half fumbled Kevin Brown's grubber kick and Tyrone Roberts re-gathered to get substitute George King over for their second try.
McNamara's men were forced to survive a few more scary moments as the Wolves harried their opponents into a series of handling errors in the final quarter.
Roberts kicked a penalty to bring his side to within a converted try and the Catalans were out on their feet towards the end of a dramatic finale.
But they clung on for a famous victory as cries of La Marseillaise rang out around Wembley.
© 2018 AFP