Words: Ian Golden, Pic: Ian Lovell
Wales won their seventh successive Wheelchair Rugby League Celtic Cup, but didn’t have it all their own way. A first-ever draw in their 50th international game, was followed by a crucial win 76-30 over Scotland.
Ireland opened their Celtic Cup campaign with a dominating 58-24 win over Scotland.
It took just two minutes for Peter Johnston to give Ireland the lead with a try in the corner. He nearly followed that up straight away but knocked on as he reached for the line.
However, Johnston made no mistake next time around, converting his own try to give Ireland a 10-0 lead.
Scotland got over the line on 17 minutes when Michael Grant broke through. His brother Dan Grant converted before going over himself and converting to give Scotland the lead.
Ireland hit back straight away through James McCarthy, then Joe Calcott extended their lead with Johnston converting.
Mark Wooloff, who played for USA in last year’s World Cup, finished things off in the first half with an unconverted try to give Ireland a 24-12 lead at the break.
The Irish quickly extended their advantage with a try from Calcott and two from Wooloff with Johnston converting the first two.
Straight from kick-off of the third of those tries, Callum Young picked up from a bounce from kick-off and zoomed over. Dan Grant converted well.
But Johnston soon scored in the corner for his hat-trick to address the balance. Pete Lauder hit back again for the Scots with Dan Grant converting, before Johnston went over for two more, one in each corner.
Melanie Griffith, with her first touch of the ball in Wheelchair Rugby League, got the final try to cement the win. She was paralysed less than a year ago and started playing Wheelchair Basketball before giving this game a go.
Wales and Ireland then fought out the first draw in Welsh history, the game ending 30-30, in what was Wales’ 50th international match, only the second nation, after England, to reach that goal.
Martin Lane raced down the middle to give Wales the lead in the second minute. Stephen Halsey converted.
A Peter Johnston try and goal soon levelled things before a Joe Calcott try gave them the lead. Johnston converted again, then added the next Ireland try.
Oran Spain raced away for Ireland’s fourth try with Johnston converting again.
Wales got back into the game on 29 minutes as Gary Preece did well to avail his tacklers to score. Halsey converted well.
Then skipper Stuart Williams scored in the corner for Wales’ third. Preece, deputising for injured Halsey, missed the kick.
Wales started well in the second half as Scott Trigg-Turner scored with Preece converting to bring the score back to 24-22.
Harry Jones was unlucky not to give Wales the lead from the next set, so Ireland were next over, through player-coach Phil Roberts with Johnston converting again.
A Martin Lane try brought Wales back into it, but Ireland still in pole position to win the game and the trophy.
However the Irish fumbled near to their own line and Wales took advantage straight away. Trigg-Turner scored, Halsey missed the conversion and the scores were level with the Welsh losing the 100 per cent Celtic Cup record but still very much in the tournament.
That left Wales needing a 35-point win to clinch the Celtic Cup and they were 34-points up at half-time against Scotland. They didn’t have it all their own way, but Scotland’s efforts couldn’t stop Wales from winning a seventh successive title.
Martin Lane gave Wales the lead in the seventh minute. Stephen Halsey converted, then added the second try.
Harry Jones marked his World Record 43rd cap by scoring Wales’ third which Halsey improved, and Gary Preece went over for the fourth on 18 minutes with Halsey converting.
Scotland struck back on 21 minutes through Calum Davidson with Dan Grant converting.
But that was just respite. Wales addressed the balance when Jones scored his second of the game. Mark Williams sped in under the sticks from the next set. Stuart Williams was in next, scoring in the corner. Preece went over for his second. Halsey converted all four.
Scotland again got a try back, this time through Dan Grant which he improved himself and Wales were 46-12 up at the break.
It took five minutes for skipper Stuart Williams to add to Wales’ lead. He raced past his markers to score and Halsey converted.
Then Lee Sargent did well to evade his markers to score his first international try leaving an easy conversion for Halsey.
Halsey raced away looking for a try of his own, but was stopped by a brilliant tackle by Callum Young, but a couple of tackles later, Halsey did get his try and duly converted.
Scotland hit back again. “Newsround” presenter Martin Dougan, on his first day playing the international game, with a try in the corner. Dan Grant converted.
Wales brought up 70 points on 68 minutes. Preece securing his hat-trick and Halsey converting.
Lucie Roberts added the 13th try, with Mason Baker converting, before Scotland struck again, this time through John Wilians, with Dan Grant converting.
A Michael Grant try, converted by his brother started to give Ireland hope, but Wales held on to clinch the trophy.