CATALANS Dragons head coach Steve McNamara was relishing the battle to get through the crowds in Perpignan after his side created history by lifting the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup at Wembley.

The French club came close to relegation from Super League last year, but on Saturday became the first non-British winners in the 121 years of the cup with a 20-14 victory over Warrington.

"I can't completely sum it up now, it's a bit surreal," said former Bulls coach 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.

"We want to get back to the people back there and let them greet us. We'll have a party ourselves and then there's a big thing in Perpignan.

"It's a whirlwind but we'll enjoy the trip back. We're taking this trophy back with us. That's worth its weight in gold.

"It's just an incredible experience and we're all a little bit lost for words. We've gone down in history."

Dragons captain Remi Casty - the sole surviving member of the Catalans team that lost to St Helens in their only previous cup final appearance - struggled to hold back the tears as his team's achievement sank in.

"It's just unbelievable for us," said the experienced forward, who deserved the success "more than anybody", according to his coach.

"It could be a good opportunity for French rugby league to follow us and make young kids want to be professional to create more good players in France and a better competition over there.

"After that maybe France could compete with England in a World Cup in four or eight years.

"We are part of the legend of the club and rugby league in France now. It's unbelievable."

Fellow Frenchman Tony Gigot claimed the Lance Todd Trophy to cap a remarkable turnaround following his doping ban, which was overturned on appeal against it.

"It's a crazy feeling and has been a crazy year," said the full-back.

"It was a very difficult time and to finish like this is just unbelievable. To win the Challenge Cup for my club in France is just crazy for me."

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."

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.

The French side were more direct and purposeful from the start and took the lead inside the first two minutes.

An uncharacteristic handling error from Wolves full-back Stefan Ratchford gifted them an attacking position 10 metres out and quick hands from David Mead and Benjamin Jullien gave winger Lewis Tierney the chance to dive over at the corner.

Josh Drinkwater kicked the conversion from the touchline and made it 8-0 five minutes later with a penalty awarded for a foul by Warrington's veteran forward Ben Westwood, who was forced off shortly afterwards to have treatment for a head knock.

The Dragons were forced to defend desperately to hang onto their lead and they needed a slice of good fortune too.

Warrington were unlucky to have a try by winger Tom Lineham disallowed for obstruction while Kevin Brown was brought back for a forward pass from his half-back partner Tyrone Roberts.

A Wolves score seemed inevitable and it duly came after 28 minutes when Catalans winger Fouad Yaha fumbled Ratchford's high kick and substitute Ben Murdoch-Masila pounced on the loose ball.

Roberts' conversion cut the deficit to just two points but the Dragons broke away to add a second score six minutes before the break when Benjamin Garcia, filling in temporarily at hooker for Michael McIlorum, forced his way over from dummy half.

Drinkwater's third goal made it 14-6 and the Dragons were virtually out of sight when a 40-20 kick from man of the match Tony Gigot created the position for centre Brayden Wiliame to go over for their third try five minutes into the second half.

Drinkwater made it four out of four with the boot but Warrington grabbed themselves a lifeline when the Catalans scrum-half fumbled Brown's grubber kick and Roberts re-gathered to get substitute George King over for their second try.

McNamara's men were forced to survive a few more scary moments as the Wolves harried their opponents into a series of handling errors in the final quarter.

Roberts kicked a penalty to bring his side to within a converted try and the Catalans were out on their feet towards the end of a dramatic finale as they clung on for a famous victory.