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Aston wants greater support

Ireland coach Mark Aston called for the game to provide better support for the second tier of international rugby league after watching his side narrowly miss out on the 2014 European Championship title.

Aston was able to call on just two Super League players, Liam Finn and Shannon McDonnell, but the Wolfhounds ended the tournament with two wins out of three, losing only to eventual champions Scotland.

The Irish, who went into the final match needing to beat Wales by 41 points in Wrexham, were leading by 36 and pressing the home line with three minutes to go only for Welsh full-back Tom Hughes to gather a loose ball and sprint the full length of the pitch to score at the other end.

Ireland were in no mood to celebrate a 46-14 victory, which gifted the title to Scotland on the back of a superior points difference, but Aston could not have been more proud of his players' efforts.

"I've never been in a changing room like that," said Aston, whose side miss out on a place in the 2016 Four Nations Series as a well as automatic qualification for the 2017 World Cup. "We were outstanding. The boys have been outstanding for the last three weeks.

"We've thrown them together and they've grown.

"There's no prouder bloke anywhere than me right now. We've had a massive tournament and finished joint top having gone within a few seconds of winning it.

"As much as it hurts now, we've got to learn from it. That's what's great about sport, you can bounce back and next year we will bounce back.

"Hopefully more people will start believing in international sport because it is the pinnacle of the sport and I think it's disrespected at a lot of levels.

"We need to get the game as a whole behind this tournament and players have got to play. It drives me insane that players don't put their hands up to play at this level and clubs don't support it."

Winger Brad Hargreaves, who plays for amateur club Wigan St Patrick's, scored a hat-trick of tries on his international debut, while at the other end of the age scale, Castleford's veteran scrum-half Finn ran the show on his return from injury and contributed 18 points with a try and seven goals.

"We got the massive boost of Liam Finn being available and massive thanks go to Castleford and Daryl Powell, a close friend of mine, for believing in us," Aston added.

"He said if it wasn't a realistic target we'd probably be smarter not playing him. To go to the last play with a chance to make history is a credit to the guys."

Wales ended the tournament with the wooden spoon after saving their worst performance for last but coach John Kear took encouragement from his team's second-half fightback after they trailed 28-0.

"We've got a young and inexperienced team and I think there was a great example of that today," Kear said.

"There was a lack of urgency, desire and determination in the first half which really surprised me because I thought we had turned a corner in France last week.

"I would say we were soft and dumb but the second half was much improved. It was three tries apiece in the second half which was more like it."


From Belfast Telegraph