AS hard as Stef Ratchford was taking Saturday's Challenge Cup Final defeat, he wishes Catalans Dragons the best in making their historic success count in France.

Not only is it Les Catalans' first piece of silverware, it is the first time the Challenge Cup has been won by an overseas team in the prestigious competition's 122-year history.

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The Dragons, as well as Toulouse Olympique in the Middle 8s, are flying the flag for French rugby league but despite the passion for the sport, especially in the south of the country, it is a constant battle to grow the game when football and rugby union are strong rivals.

"Obviously it’s not something we wanted to happen, we didn’t want to be the first team to let the French take the cup I suppose, but looking at the wider picture hopefully the win will be a big boost for them and the game in France," said the Wire's England full-back.

"I saw a couple of footballers had tweeted about it and the president of France had sent them a good luck message, so if it can raise the profile of the game in France and they can get more supporters at home and away games then hopefully in the bigger picture it’ll do well for the game in France."

Tonight's homecoming in Perpignan:

The Dragons' welcome home at the airport in the early hours of Sunday morning:

The Dragons' changing room celebrations:


How French commentators reported on the final 30 seconds of the cup final:


Catalans Dragons' after-match party:


Reflecting on the game, Ratchford said: "I’m obviously devastated, it’s a tough one to take.

"It’s never nice to lose in any game but to lose in a final on this stage is devastating.

Warrington Guardian:

Stefan Ratchford on the fly against Catalans Dragons at Wembley. Picture: Dave Gillespie

"We tried hard towards the back end but we kind of killed ourselves in the first half.

"In those first 20-25 minutes there was a lot of uncharacteristic errors from individuals, myself included.

"The first set of six tackles that Catalans had the ball they put up a bomb and I dropped it in the corner, yet I can’t remember the last time I did one of those.

"That was 6-0 after two minutes. A poor start from myself, a couple of penalties and errors trying to get out of our end and it was soon 8-0.

"We thought we’d got back in it with the Tommy Lineham try and then that got chalked off.

Warrington Guardian:

Tom Lineham's try was ruled out for an obstruction. Picture: Dave Gillespie

"It was just one of those starts where we gave ourselves no chance and we were always trying to catch up.

"Against a quality Catalans side, with the way they’re playing at the moment, you can’t afford to do that.

"One of the frustrating things as well is that after giving them eight points we got our foot in the game, worked hard for each other and stuck in there. That's one of our traits as a team.

"If we hadn’t been eight points down inside the first five or six minutes the game would have possibly panned out differently.

"It’s something we’ve got to learn from because we can’t afford to start these type of games in that mode.

Warrington Guardian:

Stef Ratchford receives his second runner-up medal in the competition to go with the one he won with The Wire in 2012. Picture: Mike Boden

"We’ve always got belief, we’ve got quality all over the park and can rack up points in a short amount of time. If you look at Leeds away we found ourselves about 12 to 14 points down and then three tries in five or six minutes put us into the lead.

"So we always had the belief that we could get ourselves back in the game and get our nose in front but credit to Catalans they hung in there as well.

"They were out on their feet but we just couldn’t quite execute the final play and get over the line.

"You can’t really sum up how you feel but the word probably is ‘devastated’ and it’s hard to take because of the way we started the game."