Leeds Rhinos come up short in thrilling Wheelchair Grand Final against Halifax despite sensational comeback

Halifax Panthers have won the Wheelchair Grand Final for the first time since 2019, beating Leeds Rhinos 52-48 in yet another thrilling game of wheelchair rugby league!

The game was opened in traditional grand final manner with Jerusalem sung to a full capacity crowd in Manchester. The players also showed their support for the ‘Tackle It’ campaign.

It was Leeds who started the better of the two teams. Despite a very early try from Nathan Holmes, Leeds went back to back. Quick hands from the Rhinos allowed James Simpson to score in the corner before a sensational pass from England captain, Tom Halliwell, gave Nathan Collins his first try of the afternoon to make the score 10-6 after 15 minutes.

Halifax came back in spectacular fashion, however. The Panthers responded with five tries without response. A kick chase, two great line breaks and two brilliant passing moves finished by Rob Hawkins and Jeremy Bourson with all tries converted gave Fax a 36-10 lead five minutes from half time.

On the hooter, Collins got his second try under the post to give Leeds somewhat of a chance in the second half. Leeds were poor in defence, missing too many tackles and allowing the Panthers to charge down the field on too many occasions. 36-16 the Halftime score.

The second half could not have been any more different from the end to the first with Leeds coming out firing. Jodie Boyd-Ward and Nathan Collins scored quickly after the restart to give Leeds a real chance to come back and win the game. The Panthers did increase their lead through Seb Bechara but the Rhinos couldn’t be stopped as they went on to cut the deficit to just two points – Nathan Collins scored his fourth and then fifth try of the afternoon. 40-42 with just 12 minutes to go.

Leeds then went on a huge break down field but Collins was pushed and the Rhinos were awarded a penalty. Who else but Collins added a penalty goal to tie up the game with less that ten minutes to go.

Leeds were level for a matter of minutes, Rob Hawkins saluted the fans before scoring a crucial try for Halifax and then added a fifth try of the game to surely seal the victory and the Grand Final for the Halifax Panthers.

And then…England international Josh Butler finished off a brilliant off-the cuff move by Leeds and a superb conversion from Collins brought the gap back to four points with less than one minute to go. Leeds received a penalty for a double tag and the Rhinos tried absolutely everything to make something happen in the final set but Halifax held out and are the Betfred Wheelchair Super League Grand Final winners for 2022.

What a sensational advert for wheelchair rugby league. Full credit to Leeds’ second half fight back but their first half performance gave them too much to do and ultimately proved pivotal. The Panthers were dominant throughout the game, with Seb Bechara and Rob Hawkins the standouts. Nathan Collins was the Leeds standout, scoring 40 of the Rhinos 48 points.

The Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup starts on Thursday 3rd November. England are in a group with Australia, Spain and Ireland and will be looking to win the prestigious trophy on home soil – the final being held at Manchester Central on Friday 18th November where England are odds on to meet world’s finest France.

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