England broke a 14-year drought and won the 2021 Wheelchair World Cup title after beating France 28-24 in spectacular 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 sparked a late charge for the hosts, scoring a brace to end his incredible World Cup campaign as the competition’s leading try scorer.
After a poor ball game from the English, France pocketed the first points of the final with Lionel Alazard scoring a penalty in the second minute of the match.
Arrived in the 9th minute and it was Alazard with the first try of the game. France produced a deft 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 fought back through skipper Halliwell who revealed a breach in the French defense and fought their way over the line to go under the hosts’ posts.
Although England star Jack Brown entered the fray in the 25th minute, France began to show their true colors when Jeremy Bourson curled a pass to winger Mostefa Abassi who crossed the line intact to score and give the French an eight-point lead.
As has been the case throughout the tournament, Jack Brown’s speed was causing all sorts of problems on the pitch and moments after he was denied a try, the Queensland local found space and fought 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 a smooth ball movement down the left side found Lewis King who crossed into the corner to give England their first lead.
With the defending champions starting to look shaken, it was magic man Brown who outmaneuvered the French defense and snuck inside to extend his side’s lead.
In the 56th minute, France fought back after Nicolas Clausells dodged several defenders before finding his 59-year-old Uncle Gilles stretching to score. Completing the nephew-uncle combination, Nicolas converted the family’s attempt to bring his side within two points of the hosts.
As things began to pick up dramatically in Manchester, mistakes began to prove costly for both teams, with England and France scoring goals on the pitch, but after the defending champions netted a second penalty shot, the scores were locked 24-24 with nine minutes remaining.
In the 77th minute, all of England’s supporters at the Manchester stadium were on their feet when Halliwell, on the final tackle, forced his way through a desperate French defense and scored down the left to give his side their first final of World Cup in 14 years.
- Lionel Alazard, 40, scored 29 goals for France in this year’s World Cup final.
- Jack Brown finished the tournament as the top try scorer with 17 tries in five matches.
- Azard, Frenchmen Jeremy Bourson, Jack Brown and Seb Bechara have all been selected in this year’s team of the tournament.
- France and England have contested the last two wheelchair World Cup finals in 2013 and 2017, with the French emerging triumphant each time.
- The last time England beat France was in the 2008 World Cup group stage.
- Tom Halliwell was the player of the match.
Game of the game
It was when World Cup star Jack Brown entered the fray in the first half that Manchester’s stadium came to life on Tuesday morning. With his incredible speed and agility, Brown led England’s charge in the second half but it was in the 38th minute of the game that Brown did what he does best. After England moved the ball from left to right, Brown charged down the line and snuck inside the England defense to put his side ahead by two tries.