If at the start of the season a Rugby League [VIDEO] fan had predicted the Catalans Dragons [VIDEO] to win the Challenge Cup [VIDEO], no one would have taken that person seriously. After all, this time last year the Dragons were struggling in the Qualifiers with relegation only avoided with a victory over Leigh in the infamous Million-Pound Game.

With just two wins from their opening 11 games in 2018, the French side's struggles appeared to be continuing. And, a shaky 22-34 victory over York City Knights in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup [VIDEO] did not do much to reduce the odds for the Dragons to take home the cup for the first time in their history.

A remarkable upturn in form

Yet, ten wins from their next 14 matches - including a 56-10 thrashing of Whitehaven in the sixth round and a 6-20 win over Huddersfield in the quarter-finals - meant the French side became one of the most in-form teams in Rugby League.

A semi-final draw with St Helens was cheered by the Saints fans as an apparently easy route to the final. But, to write any team off in the last four is a huge mistake and so it proved; a 16-35 demolition of St Helens was perhaps one of the greatest ever shocks in the history of the Challenge Cup - remember, this was a Saints team that had lost just twice in 2018.

The Dragons were set to play Warrington in the final after the latter brushed past Leeds with ease in the other semi-final, but still, Catalans went into the Wembley clash as underdogs.

With no hope of reaching the top four in Super League, the cup became Catalans' sole objective. Warrington, on the other hand, still have a race to finish as high as possible and reach the playoffs.

The turning point in the sport

All of the pre-match talks centered on the attendance worry; in the end, just over 50,000 turned up which was the lowest spectator count for the final since 1945. But, in reality, it didn't matter; Rugby League has been crying out for a watershed moment in recent years and as the Dragons players stormed over to their hardy fans - at least 5,000 made the arduous journey - as the hooter sounded, one could not help but think that this was the turning point for the sport as a whole.

The Challenge Cup has never left Britain in its 121-year history until now, and that is something that should be celebrated, not vilified. As the sport continues down the path of expansionism, this stunning victory was proof that it can work if the structures are in place. As the Catalans fans burst into a chorus of La Marseillaise, one could not help but smile - even if that smile seemed to go against everything that is currently happening politically in Britain.

The Dragons were the underdogs, and the British people love an underdog, regardless of its nationality or ethnicity. Almost all the neutrals watching inside Wembley and around the country were supporting the French side - a sign that sport can overcome political Rugby League is very popular in the south of France - a remarkable feat considering the sport was banned by the country's Vichy government 70 years ago - and this success could prove to be the catalyst for Rugby League to grow even further.

Small opposition

For some though, the scenes of a French side lifting the sport's most prestigious trophy was unfathomable. In fact, a Facebook poster labelled it a disgrace that foreign sides are even able to compete in the Challenge Cup. Where is this person stuck? The 1900s? The political and social divisions within Britain at present are deep while nationalism continues to rear its controversial head, but the idea that the Challenge Cup going out of Britain is wrong is one of the most ridiculous statements ever made.

The Catalans fought tooth and nail for that trophy, and the outpour of emotion and passion from the players, fans and even French commentators that had made their way over to London was evidence that the sport needs clubs such as these. Forget the low attendance - if those who had moaned about the lack of French support actually made the journey themselves than the top Wembley tier may have been opened - and embrace the history-making event of the past weekend.

The sport has been on its backside for the past few decades with the same teams seemingly winning both Super League and the Challenge Cup. Well, a club formed just 18 years ago has done something previously thought impossible: given the Challenge Cup a home outside the M62 corridor. Welcome this fact; it has got two countries - Britain and France - talking about the sport, united in their love for the game. Isn't that what everyone wants?