Catalans Dragons’ wheelchair team – the best club side in all Rugby League?

IS there a better club team in all Rugby League than Dragons Handi?

Catalans’ wheelchair division has long been at the forefront of the nascent game, with a stellar collection of some of its finest players assembled on the Mediterranean coast.

Becoming the first European Club Championship winners by beating English champions Wigan is just another title on their honours board and another chapter in a short but rich history, and one that makes them world champions in all but name.

It wasn’t just the margin of the French league winners and Challenge Cup holders’ victory that was remarkable, but the way they did it.

You may celebrate your Wigan or your Penrith Panthers, or perhaps your Newcastle Knights in the NRLW. But does any side combine power and speed with such regular moments of jaw-dropping skill quite like these Dragons?

If you were not enjoying this game live, either in person or on screen, watch back on The Sportsman the 24-minute period, either side of half-time, in which they scored no fewer than eight tries.

The first score of this magical spell saw Jérémy Bourson put fist to ball in front of his own posts on the second play of a set. Seb Bechara hared after the kick in behind the Wigan defence, picked it up magnificently at his foot, and was in for a try of the very highest quality.

Like a length-of-the-field try? Next came just that from Arno Vargas, collecting a loose ball in a Warriors attack and wheeling away at ferocious speed.

More a fan of team passes? Try this. Bechara took a tap restart and saw the ball returned out the back by Vargas. They shifted left through Bourson to Damien Doré, who dummied a potential pass wide to Joël Lacombe before crossing himself. All five of the players on the pitch at that time were involved in a play as good as any you’ll see.

So it continued. The incomparable Bourson scored four in a row, including one four seconds before half-time. Bechara kicked from the Dragons’ own half but this was no hail-mary play – they had done just the same for Bourson’s first try of five after 17 minutes. Both times, the execution was perfect and the skill required – easy as they might make it look – breathtakingly high.

In total Catalans scored twelve tries, with Doré getting five like Bourson. Both, plus England star Bechara and official player of the match Vargas, were electric. And all this without another of their world-class players, Nicolas Clausells.

It is to Wigan’s credit that the score did not blow out significantly worse. Unlikely Super League winners last year after a third-place finish, they were always underdogs here but competed well at the start and finish, with captain Declan Roberts involved in much of their best work.

The Warriors only trailed 18-12 after 27 minutes, with two individual Roberts finishes, and in the second half he produced two wonderful assists for fellow 2022 World Cup winner Adam Rigby before completing his hat-trick nine minutes from time.

They did not play poorly by any means but when the Dragons are in full flow, good luck stopping them.