25th August 2018, 18:00 | ChallengeCup
La Marseillaise rang out around Wembley as Catalans Dragons made history by becoming the first non-British winners in the 121 years of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
The French club were 40 minutes away from relegation from Super League 11 months ago but they picked up their first silverware courtesy of a 20-14 victory over Warrington Wolves.
The Catalans received a good-luck message from president Emmanuel Macron before kick-off and they will now be hoping their landmark victory will provide a boost for the game across France.
History was witnessed by a crowd of 50,672 as Catalans captain Remi Casty, the sole surviving member of the Dragons team that went down 30-8 to St Helens in their only previous Cup final appearance 11 years ago, lifted the trophy.
It was also a sweet success for coach Steve McNamara, who was back at Wembley for the first time since his England team suffered a heart-breaking 20-18 defeat by New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 2013 World Cup.
McNamara’s men were good value for a 14-6 interval lead and they stretched that to 20-6 early in the second half before tiring alarmingly and in the end were grateful for the final whistle.
Dragons head coach McNamara was relishing the battle to get through the crowds in Perpignan after his side created history.
“I can’t completely sum it up now, it’s a bit surreal,” said McNamara.
“The group has done incredibly well and executed what we wanted to do well again today, for large periods of it.
“I just know how much money has been spent by the fans to get across here and how the people back home are heartbroken because they couldn’t get here because of the expense.
“Getting back to Perpignan and seeing the response is going to be where it really strikes home for us.
“We’ll have to fight our way through the airport because it will be full. The police will escort us through and then it’s back to the stadium where we’ll have a party throughout the night.
Warrington staged a late fightback but were unable to find a score that would have sent the final to golden point despite dominating possession and field position in the closing stages.
Wolves head coach Steve Price said: “It’s gut-wrenching to lose a Challenge Cup final after the amount of hard work the boys have put in. It’s tough to take at the moment.
“It’s going to be a really good challenge to pick ourselves up. We’re fighting for a top-four spot in Super League. It wasn’t our best performance today but we’ve got a footy team in there.
“We’ll try harness this feeling to motivate ourselves for the rest of the year.”