|Leeds (20) 48|
|Tries: Simpson 3, Halliwell 2, Boyd-Ward, Collins, Butler Goals: Collins 8|
|Catalans (16) 34|
|Tries: Hivernat, Bechara, Vargas, Bourson 2, Clausells Goals: Clausells 5|
Leeds Rhinos player-coach James Simpson scored a hat-trick of tries as they beat Catalans Dragons to win a third consecutive Wheelchair Challenge Cup.
Simpson first scored inside 60 seconds, but a trio of tries raced the Dragons to a 10-point lead.
Tom Halliwell’s double and two penalties from Nathan Collins edged Leeds back in front at the break.
Jodie Boyd-Ward, Simpson, Nathan Collins and Josh Butler then wrapped up the win in the second-half.
The Rhinos won the Challenge Cup in 2019 and 2021, with the 2020 competition cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
By contrast, the French side are in the competition for the first time but they started the match more brightly and took the game to Leeds before the break.
Johnathan Hivernat, Sebastien Bechara and Arno Varnas scored in quick succession to put them 16-6 in front inside 20 minutes.
Halliwell – who scored five tries in last year’s cup-winning final – then got over the try line twice to help reduce the deficit, before Boyd-Ward increased Leeds’ lead just after the restart.
The two sides traded scores back and forth through Jeremy Bourson, Simpson and Nicolas Clausells in a closely-fought period.
Yet the defending champions showed their experience, scoring three unopposed tries to secure the victory by 14 points, and another trophy.
Leeds Rhinos player-coach James Simpson told BBC Sport:
“I thought the game was brilliant and an amazing standard from both teams. Two quality sides came down to fight. I said to our guys before, if you can look in the mirror tonight and know you’ve given it everything then well done, you’ve won.
“It shows in the performance now that everyone laid it out on the line. I genuinely think we did the impossible. Catalans come over and have been the dominant force for some time.
“Half of that team are internationals and we had a gameplan, we stuck to it, put momentum on them when we had to and I feel like we did the impossible. We put a massive marker down. If that’s the marker we can put down today, we’ve got to keep doing that.”
Catalans Dragons captain Sebastien Bechara told BBC Sport:
“I’m proud of reaching the final but we’ve been expecting to reach the final because we’ve been the dominant team in France for some time. We’ve performed against the best teams in England before in 2011 and 2015 in two unofficial European Cups.
“We’re proud to be here but obviously I’m immensely disappointed right now.
“I’m looking at the positives, half the team we played today is part of the England squad. With my England head, November is the closer event and the World Cup is approaching very quickly and we showed amazing skill today.”
Leeds: Collins, Boyd-Ward, Simpson, Clibbens, Halliwell.
Interchanges: Horrobin, Smith, Butler.
Catalans: Bechara, N. Clausells, Vargas, Dore, Lacombe.
Interchanges: G. Clausells, Bourson, Hivernat.