Catalans make history after stunning Warrington to win Ladbrokes Challenge Cup

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La Marseillaise rang out around Wembley as Catalans Dragons made history by becoming the first non-British winners in the 121 years of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.

The French club were 40 minutes away from relegation from Super League 11 months ago but there will be dancing in the streets of Perpignan on Saturday night after they picked up their first silverware courtesy of a 20-14 victory over Warrington.

The Catalans received a good-luck message from president Emmanuel Macron before kick-off and they will now be hoping their landmark victory will provide a boost for the game across France.

History was witnessed by a crowd of 50,672, the lowest for more than 70 years, but that will matter little to Catalans captain Remi Casty, the sole surviving member of the Dragons team that went down 30-8 to St Helens in their only previous Cup final appearance 11 years ago.

It was also a sweet success for coach Steve McNamara, who was back at Wembley for the first time since his England team suffered a heart-breaking 20-18 defeat by New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 2013 World Cup.

McNamara’s men were good value for a 14-6 interval lead and they stretched that to 20-6 early in the second half before tiring alarmingly and in the end were grateful for the final whistle.

Catalans Dragons v Warrington Wolves – Ladbrokes Challenge Cup – Final – Wembley Stadium
Remi Casty and his Dragons team-mates celebrate an historic victory at Wembley (Adam Davy/PA)

An uncharacteristic handling error from Wolves full-back Stefan Ratchford gifted them an attacking position 10 metres out and quick hands from David Mead and Benjamin Jullien gave winger Lewis Tierney the chance to dive over at the corner.

Josh Drinkwater kicked the conversion from the touchline and made it 8-0 five minutes later with a penalty awarded for a foul by Warrington’s veteran forward Ben Westwood, who was forced off shortly afterwards to have treatment for a head knock.

Catalans Dragons v Warrington Wolves
Warrington found Catalans too tough a nut to crack (Adam Davy/PA)

Warrington were unlucky to have a try by winger Tom Lineham disallowed for obstruction while Kevin Brown was brought back for a forward pass from his half-back partner Tyrone Roberts.

A Wolves score seemed inevitable and it duly came after 28 minutes when Catalans winger Fouad Yaha fumbled Ratchford’s high kick and substitute Ben Murdoch-Masila pounced on the loose ball.

Roberts’ conversion cut the deficit to just two points but the Dragons broke away to add a second score six minutes before the break when Benjamin Garcia, filling in temporarily at hooker for Michael McIlorum, forced his way over from dummy half.

Drinkwater’s third goal made it 14-6 and the Dragons were virtually out of sight when a 40-20 kick from man of the match Tony Gigot created the position for centre Brayden Wiliame to go over for their third try five minutes into the second half.

Drinkwater made it four out of four with the boot but Warrington grabbed themselves a lifeline when the Catalans scrum-half fumbled Brown’s grubber kick and Roberts re-gathered to get substitute George King over for their second try.

Catalans Dragons v Warrington Wolves – Ladbrokes Challenge Cup – Final – Wembley Stadium
George King gave Warrington a lifeline at Wembley but they could not overhaul Catalans (Adam Davy/PA)

Roberts kicked a penalty to bring his side to within a converted try and the Catalans were out on their feet towards the end of a dramatic finale as they clung on for a famous victory.

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