15 Oct 2023
Betfred Wheelchair Super League Grand Final – Leeds Rhinos 42 Wigan Warriors 50
Wigan Warriors completed their second Grand Final win in consecutive days as their Wheelchair team were crowned Super League champions for the first time in their short history with a thrilling win against Leeds Rhinos in Manchester.
In only their second season since bringing the Leyland Warriors team into the Wigan Warriors Foundation, Chris Greenhalgh’s team emulated the achievement of Matt Peet’s heroes across the city at Old Trafford less than 24 hours earlier.
Unlike Peet’s team, Wigan came into the game as underdogs against a Rhinos side who had won the League Leaders’ Shield and were aiming to make amends for a Grand Final defeat against Halifax Panthers at the same venue in 2022.
But with captain Declan Roberts setting an inventive, inspirational lead, they led for the vast majority of the match – and then came home the stronger when the Rhinos threatened to snatch victory in a nip and tuck second half.
Leeds took the lead for the first time in the contest in the 70th minute when their speedy England star Nathan Collins scored the fourth try of a superb individual performance, and England captain Tom Halliwell converted from wide out.
But Roberts ensured that Wigan were behind for less than four minutes as he laid on Jack Heggie’s third try of the match with a delicate kick, and then converted himself to re-establish a 44-42 lead.
Two minutes later, Heggie turned provider to lay on a second try for the Wales international Martin Lane, and Roberts landed his seventh goal to establish a match-winning eight-point cushion.
Heggie had opened the scoring in the fifth minute and Wigan retained that advantage throughout the first half. Lane scored one try and laid on a stunning score for Martin Wooloff with a bullet of an inside pass from the right wing, and Roberts scored their last two tries of the first half – the second bringing down the goalposts in one of the spectacular moments that are a feature of Wheelchair Rugby League.
But Leeds stayed within touching distance as their captain Jodie Boyd-Ward scored two tries in the right corner, and Collins scored his first two, one of them from his own chip ahead – although unusually, he was unable to convert any of the tries, meaning Wigan led 28-16.
They went further ahead when Adam Rigby scored the first try of the second half, but Halliwell led the Leeds response by scoring one try and combining with Collins to set up another for Nathan Mulhall, with Collins landing his first two goals.
North Wales Crusaders had won the Wheelchair RL Championship Grand Final in the first match of a double header, coming from 22-8 behind at half-time to beat the Wigan Warriors 46-40 in a thriller.
Ste Halsey led them inspirationally with four tries and seven goals for a personal haul of 30 points, with Lucie Roberts touching down twice.
There was more good news for the Crusaders in the Wheelchair Rugby League awards ceremony staged between the matches, as Mason Baker was named Championship Player of the Year.
York were named Club of the Year as one of several new teams to have been inspired by last autumn’s Rugby League World Cup, and there were also awards for referees David Butler and Matt Ball – Butler winning the Match Official of the Year award, and Ball receiving an award for his services to the Wheelchair game.
Will Brooks of Sheffield Eagles, another club who have made great strides in 2023, won the Championship Young Player of the Year Award, and an Outstanding Contribution award was made to Malcolm Kielty MBE of Halifax Panthers, who was the driving force behind the establishment of Wheelchair Rugby League in England.
The Betfred Wheelchair Super League Awards had been presented last Tuesday at Emirates Old Trafford as part of Rugby League’s biggest ever Awards Night, with Lewis King of London Roosters the inaugural winner of the Wheels of Steel.