France held on to defeat England 26-24 at the Makis Stadium in Belgrade, despite being without three players, who had flown to England, to make their debuts for Super League’s Catalans Dragons.
In a superb title decider, England staged a dramatic fightback when trailing 26-16, scoring the two late, unconverted tries which nevertheless left them unable to overcome the French.
The sides were locked at 10-all at the break.
France centre Matthieu Leguerre opened the scoring; Thimothe Bertrand added the goal.
England responded with tries through skipper Chris Teare, scoring in his third consecutive game, and Gary McMahon, who converted his own effort.
The French were level at half time with Louis Carre crossing, but Bertrand missed both the conversion and a drop goal attempt as the whistle blew.
Early in the second half, Pierre Jean Lima put the French ahead after a great run by winger, Guillaume Gorka, and Leguerre claimed his double.
Bertrand goaled both and added a penalty to make it 24-10.
Teare stepped clear after a five-man, passing move, to give England hope, with McMahon goaling, but another Bertrand penalty maintained a ten-point margin, going into the final stages.
With three minutes to go, Callum Wood sent in Elias Harrison but the extras were missed and, with the final play, while Calum Coleman’s arrowed kick was pounced on by Liam Kenyon in the corner McMahon could not add the levelling conversion. England finished with four tries to France’s five.
“It is a magnificent achievement by this team,” commented France general manager, Florian Chautard. “It was very nerve-racking at the end, when we saw England come back, but the win is a just reward for all the hard work put in by this squad.”
England head coach Allan Coleman noted, “We worked hard all game and figured out their system but gave ourselves too much to do at the end. The lads are really disappointed, But it is still a great achievement by this squad and I couldn’t be prouder of the boys.”
FRANCE (26): Corentin Rey, Miki Bauer, Matthieu Leguerre, Louis Carre, Guillaume Gorka, David De Macedo, Thimothe Bertrand, Florian Vailhen, Thomas Lacans, Barthelemy Rouge, Corentin Le Cam, Sebastien Bled, Mathieu Jassaume. Subs: Pierre Fourquet, Pierre Jean Lima, Francois Dorce Hantz, Hugo Salabio. Tries: Leguerre (6, 45) Carre (21), Lima (37). Goals: Bertrand 5
ENGLAND (24): Curtis Teare, Ben Selby, Robert Crompton, Brandon Wood, James Golksbra-Miller, Gary McMahon, Calum Coleman, Leon Harber, Callum Wood, Jake Bradley, Liam Kenyon, George Senior, Louis Brogan.
Subs: Elias Harrison, Ben Holmes, Sam Favell, Joe Digby. Tries: Teare (8, 45), McMahon (18), Harrison (67), Kenyon (69). Goals: McMahon 2
Half time 10-10 : Referee Ben Casty
Wales came from 18-6 down to dominate the second half against the Scots. The young Bravehearts started brightly, skipper Archie Andrade opening the scoring, Luke Punton with the goal. Lewis Hall replied for the Welsh, converting his own score but Elliott Campbell and winger Tim Kennedy added tries for Scotland before half time, Punton adding the extras to both.
Wales dominated the second period, adding six tries all through different scorers as they continually looked to spread the ball. Billy Glover and then Cobi Green racing clear from the base of a scrum brought them level, wingers William Lynch and James Smith, Macauley Harris and Fraser Stroud with their other touchdowns. Hall was perfect with the boot landing seven goals and finishing with 18 points.
“I’m very proud of my boys and their response after the England game,” said Wales head coach, Anthony Walker. “We never panicked even when we went behind and our players showed great character to get back into the game. Winning the plate is a great achievement.”
According to Scotland general manager, Alex Chandler: “We let them back into it and then the heads dropped, which left us at the mercy of their attack. We still look at this tournament as a success on every level as it’s the highest Scotland have finished in this competition and every player has got something out of it.”
Hosts Serbia won silverware as they defeated Ireland, in a terrific game that could have gone either way. Serbia were indebted to skipper Vladimir Milutinovic, the second rower superb throughout and finishing with 20 points from two tries and a perfect six goals.
Centre Zane Bijorac also claimed a brace of touchdowns, hooker Jai Smith and, in the closing minute, Matija Mihajlovic with Serbia’s other touchdowns. Ireland led 10-6 and 24-22, full back Ryan Curran their star with two tries, including a stunning, length of the field effort, and four goals. Winger Andrew Smyth also claimed a try double.
“We prepared well for this, the boys needed to win for a bit of self-belief,” said Serbia head coach Neil Bijorac. “I was happy with our start but a few errors crept in. To our credit, we corrected them and scored some good tries at the end.”
Ireland general manager Conor Kelly noted: “We’re very disappointed and there’s a sombre mood in the camp. The lads gave it everything and the score line is a bit flattering as I think we were the better team for a lot of the game. We can still take positives, this was the first time this group of lads had played together so to see them constantly bounce back is superb.”
For Italy, stand-off, Davide Arena scored two tries and six goals, as they swept aside Ukraine. The Azzurrini led 30-0 at the break. Half back partner, Nico Rizzelli csored a notched up a second half hat trick.
“Our game plan worked,” commented Italy coach, Riccardo Dodi. “We had more freedom to move the ball and made less mistakes in attack, so we were more effective.”
His opposite number, Ihor Yurkin, was far from despondent, however. “This has been a real learning process,” he said. “We will take it forward into future tournaments. Italy were strong but we showed great pride.”