This time last year wheelchair rugby league was becoming a viral sensation and taking the world by storm, whilst today saw England host France in a rematch of that World Cup Final clash in front of a huge crowd at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.
That final last year and the success of England helped capture the imagination of millions with the participation levels of the sport having shot up as a result. The fact that today’s game was played in a venue of such scale is testament to the incredible growth of the game.
England took the lead early on when Rob Hawkins raced away in open space on the left showing the French a clean pair of wheels as he opened the scoring.
That English lead was dented quickly with the French opting for a penalty and then adding to it with a try through Catalans Jeremy Bourson. The physical Bourson had been drawing plenty of attention early doors but did enough to power over.
A further French penalty and a second Bourson try followed just after the 20 minute mark with the game looking like it could get away from England, Bourson having had plenty of room on the left flank to score untouched.
More success followed for France with Dore scoring in the corner after an impressive line drew the attention of two England tacklers. The onslaught continued when Lionel Alazard scored his first of the game and in easy style, the French cutting through England with ease.
England did manage to pull one back before halftime through Joe Coyd but they still headed in to the dressing rooms down by a wide score line of 30-12.
Coming out to a fast start was imperative for England and they did just that with Man of Wheels winner Lewis King scoring in the corner, however France hit back quickly to eliminate that score and make it 36-18.
England’s fightback wasn’t to be deterred though with Nathan Collins starting to have more influence on the game and he was released in the corner to score and bring it back to 36-22, crucially missing the extras meaning it remained a three score lead for France.
In spite of the three score lead already existing the French opted for a rare drop goal to make the lead 37-22, however it meant that they received the ball back and that allowed them another set. That set saw Jeremy Bourson break through to score his hattrick.
With the game looking like getting away from England step up captain Tom Halliwell who darted in under the sticks to set up an intense final 20 minutes.
Seb Bechara then set up Lewis King to score impressively in the corner, England closing to within nine points of their counterparts with 15 minutes to go.
England came close to scoring late on but in a game of fine margins they were just on the wrong side of the result with the French boasting stout defence for the final 15 minutes, holding on to win 43-34 in what was a brilliant advert for this brilliant sport.