Wales Wheelchair fall to defeat in World Cup opener

By Ian Golden in Sheffield. Photo: Ian Lovell.

World Champions France inflicted a record 154-6 defeat on Wales in the opening game of the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup.

Lionel Alazard got nearly a third of the points, thanks to his six tries and 13 goals, equalling 50 points, an individual World Cup record. Moustafa Abassi and Jérémy Bourson each went over for five tries, with Julien Penalla getting a hat-trick and six goals. Florian Guttadoro (who also kicked four goals), Arno Vargas, Jonathan Hivernat and Gilles Clausells each went over for a brace of tries.

It took just 50 seconds for France, most of whom are full time professional players, to take the lead on the incredibly fast pitch. Alazard sped through to score, converting his own try.

Alazard brilliantly chased his own grubber to score France’s second, again adding the conversion.

France’s arm movements were outstanding as Wales couldn’t get hold of a tag. Clausells sped through for their third and Alazard again got the goal. 18-0 to France on six minutes.

Wales finally got an attack going as they regained the ball from kick-off, but even after three sets, they couldn’t break through the world champions’ defence. Scott Trigg-Turner, tagged as he grounded, was nearest to an opening Wales try in the first ten minutes.

As soon as they regained the ball, France scored. Bourson broke through and zoomed nearly the length of the pitch to score. Alazard converted before completing his hat-trick of tries and goaling again to put the score onto 30-0.

Sadly for Wales, the score kept climbing as the French continued to let rip as the score built up to 66-0 on 25 minutes.

Then Wales finally broke through. Harry Jones, who had only been on for a minute, scored in the corner and Stephen Halsey converted.

Following that, France scored five more tries before the break to make the score 96-6 at half-time, a record against Wales in 40 minutes of play.

France came out strong in the second half and were 128-6 up by the 55th minute.

And after Wales successfully defended a set on their own line, they went onto the attack. Mark Williams was closest to scoring for the Welsh.

Wales did keep France out for one set when they attacked again, but it didn’t stay that way for long. A full 12 minutes after they last scored, France went over for their 23rd try of the game as Jonathan Hivernat scored his second.

France scored four more tries in the final 12 minutes, but it’s a credit to Wales that they didn’t stop battling throughout the game and just a final second tag on a French player as he was looking to score, ensured that this wasn’t a World Cup record score.

Wales now need to pick themselves up to take on USA on Monday, kick-off 7.30pm, again live on BBC2.