This was my 3rd tournament with the Wales wheelchair rugby league squad. Having previously competed at the 2014 Four Nations and 2015 European Championships.
Day 1 of the tournament started with Wales coming up against the Exiles – a team made up of a mix of Irish, Welsh and English players.
RFL press officer John Seager said: “The Exiles started the game really well, they capitalised on some early nerves from Wales, and they held an early lead from two tries from Joshua Butler. Despite Wales scoring a try through Andrew Higgins, the Exiles finished the first half on top, as Butler completed a first half hat trick to give them a six-point lead at half time.”
We came out of a different side in after the break as we dominated the rest of the game after taking the lead when vice captain Stuart Williams scored his first try of the game. Higgins completed his hat trick and a try for myself completed a great turnaround for Wales, as we won the game 42-18.
The second game of the day, saw Wales play Scotland. We were looking to perform well following on from our excellent win over the Exiles in the morning and to get one foot in the Grand Final.
Seager said: “Wales continued on from their excellent second half against the Exiles, with Stuart Williams, Mark Williams and Harry Jones all scoring a try each to put them ten points up early on. Scotland took the game to Wales as Michael Mellon scored a try to close the gap to four points but a second Stuart Williams try gave Wales a ten point lead at the break.”
After the break we went up a gear; a penalty and a drop goal from Andrew Higgins, followed by a try each for Mark Williams and Gary Preece put us 23 points clear. “Scotland did attempt to mount a late comeback as Mellon added a fourth try of the match and Daniel Grant scored his only try of game, but it wasn’t enough to catch Wales, who won their second game by a score 41-28.” Seager said.
The final round of fixtures began on Sunday morning when the two unbeaten sides, England and Wales, played out a well-contested match.
England came out the block early the game with a try from Nathan Mulhall and an excellent acrobatic try for Martin Lane. We were still holding onto England and just eight points behind England when Martin Beddis scored a try and an Andrew Higgins penalty kept us in the game. A late try for Sebastian Bechara meant that England led by 14 points at half time. England further extended that lead into the second half when Tom Haliwell added two more tires for England.
“England then dominated the rest of the game; Jodie Boyd-Ward, James Simpson and Nathan Collins all scoring tries and a late second try of the game for Mulhall meant that England progressed to the final unbeaten, as they won the game 56-14.” Seager said
The Grand Final took place between Wales and England, in front of a packed out crowd. England started the game well, with an impressive first half hat trick by Ryan Richardson and a try from their co-captain James Simpson. These four tries gave England an 18-point lead.
We did reply with a try from Andrew Higgins, but further England tries from Martin Lane and Adam Barnett meant that England lead us by 24 points at half time. We didn’t give up, though, and we got back into the game in the second half. We scored three more tries, including one from Gavin Preece, as we clawed the gap back to 14 points.
However, a late surge from England, including tries from Jodie Boyd-Ward and a second try of the game each from Lane and Barnett, meant that England retained the Four Nations trophy with a 52-26 win.
We as a team have come a long way from those early days of getting beaten by England by 80 odd points to now only just being 20 or so points behind. In fairness, I speak probably for most within the squad when saying we are disappoint with the result, however on reflection it shows the hard work the guys have put in behind the scenes to get us to this position in the first place.
Stewart Walker (C), Luis Domingos, Tom Martin, Sebastian Groves, Josh Butler, Robert Hawkins, Ewan Clibbens, Tony Godward, Joseph Batchelor
Mark Williams (C), Stuart Williams, Andrew Higgins, Martin Beddis, Harry Jones, James Roberts, Gary Taylor, Alan Caron, Gary Preece
Graeme Stewart (C), Daniel Harris, Daniel Grant, Michael Grant, Gavin Dobson, Michael Mellon, John Cairns, Jay Anderson, Ronnie Robb, Stephen Carling
Martin Lane (C), James Simpson (C), Sebastian Bechara, Jodie Boyd-Ward, Adam Barnett, Tom Haliwell, Nathan Mulhall, Ryan Richardson, Nathan Collins, Kieron Johnson
Exerts taken from official press release
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