England have broken a 14-year drought and claimed the 2021 Wheelchair World Cup title after defeating France 28-24 in dramatic fashion on Saturday morning (AEDT) in Manchester.
With the scores locked with less than 10 minutes to play it was skipper Tom Halliwell who crossed the line in the 77th minute to hand the hosts their first World Cup Championship since 2008.
Trailing 14-6 in the first half, it was Jack Brown who ignited a late charge by the hosts, scoring a double to finish his incredible World Cup campaign as the competition’s leading try scorer.
After an incorrect play-the-ball by the English, France bagged the first points of the Final with Lionel Alazard slotting a penalty goal in the second minute of the match.
Come the 9th minute and it was Alazard with the first try of the match. France produced a slick raid down the left side to send the 2021 Team of the Tournament representative over the line for an eight-point lead.
But 10 minutes later England hit back through 23-year-old Halliwell who exposed a gap in France’s defence and muscled his way over the line to cross under the posts for the hosts.
Despite England star Jack Brown entering the fray in the 25th minute, France began to show their true colours when Jeremy Bourson looped a pass to winger Mostefa Abassi who crossed the line untouched to score and hand the French an eight-point lead.
As has been the case throughout the tournament, Jack Brown’s speed was causing all sorts of issues around the court and just moments after he was denied a try, the Queensland local found space and weaved his way past several French defenders to score, reducing the deficit 14-12 at the break.
England came straight out of the sheds and with some slick ball movement down the left side found Lewis King who crossed in the corner to hand England their first lead.
The defending champions beginning to look rattled, it was magic man Brown who outsmarted the French defence and weaved inside to stretch the lead for his side.
Come the 56th minute and France hit back after Nicolas Clausells dodged multiple defenders before finding his 59-year-old uncle Gilles who stretched over to score. Finishing the nephew-uncle combination, Nicolas converted the family try to bring his side back within two points of the hosts.
As things started to head up dramatically in Manchester, errors began to prove costly for both sides with England and France both slotting field goals but after the defending champions slotted a second penalty shot, the scores were locked 24-24 with nine minutes to play.
Come the 77th minute and every English fan in Manchester Stadium was on their feet when Halliwell, on the last tackle, weaved his way through a desperate French defence and scored on the left to hand his side their first World Cup Final in 14 years.