Leeds Rhinos will face Catalans Dragons in the Betfred Wheelchair Challenge Cup Final at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport next month.
They finished joint top of the table at a qualifying Festival at Hull University’s Allam Sport Centre on Saturday, to set up a repeat of last year’s Final which the Rhinos won 48-34 to maintain their grip on the Cup which stretches back to 2019.
The 2023 Final will be played on Sunday August 20, eight days after the Men’s and Women’s Betfred Challenge Cup Finals at Wembley. Tickets for the English Institute of Sport will go on sale this week, when details of broadcast coverage will also be announced.
Hull FC were the early pacesetters in the Festival, which involved all six Betfred Wheelchair Super League teams in addition to Catalans, who were recently crowned French champions and flew into Leeds-Bradford Airport on Friday.
They recorded a hat-trick of victories against London Roosters (8-4), Warrington Wolves (12-2) and an injury-hit Wigan Warriors (16-0), while Leeds and Catalans each dropped an early point as they proved inseparable in a brutal 4-4 draw.
But Leeds punctured Hull’s 100% record with a 12-4 win, set up by two well-taken tries by England’s Ewan Clibbens, and that was quickly followed by a second defeat for the Black and Whites against the Catalans, whose French internationals excelled in a 16-0 victory.
Hull bounced back to ensure third place in the final table with an 8-4 win against Halifax Panthers, the reigning Betfred Wheelchair Super League champions, while Catalans secured their top two finish – and a chance for revenge against the Rhinos – with a 1-0 win against London Roosters courtesy of an opportunist drop goal from Seb Bechara, their England international who was awarded an MBE in the King’s Birthday Honours for his contribution to last autumn’s World Cup triumph.
Earlier, Gravesend Dynamite and Sheffield Eagles had earned places in the Challenge Trophy Final after finishing first and second in a separate eight-team competition which underlined the development of Wheelchair Rugby League on the back of England’s World Cup success.
An RFL Inclusion Festival also featured eight-team competitions in the Physical Disability Super League and the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League, also held at the Allam Sports Centre.
Chris Godfrey, the RFL’s Social and Inclusion Manager, said:
“Congratulations to Leeds, Catalans, Gravesend and Sheffield, but also to everyone else who has been involved in a real celebration of Rugby League.
“We’ve had well over 400 players involved across Wheelchair Rugby League, Physical Disability Rugby League and Learning Disability Rugby League, with 16 clubs represented.
“It’s been great to welcome the Catalans Dragons to the Betfred Wheelchair Challenge Cup for the second consecutive year, and Halifax Panthers and Hull FC also deserve recognition for fielding development teams in the Trophy competition.
“Hull FC, Leeds Rhinos, Bradford Bulls and Hull KR fielded teams in all three areas of the Festival – Wheelchair, PDRL and LDRL – and I’d like to thank Hull FC and Hull KR, especially Mike Swainger and Liam Waslin, for combining to organise the PDRL and LDRL Festivals.
“We are also grateful to Mark Hagues and his team at Hull University’s Allam Sports Centre, which has proved the perfect venue for such an ambitious Festival.”
The next PDRL Festival will be at Warrington’s Victoria Park, while the Betfred Wheelchair Super League resumes with a third Magic Round of fixtures at Medway Park in Kent on July 30.