First wins for Wheelchair Rugby favourites

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 22 September 2010
 
 First wins for Wheelchair Rugby favourites
Canada beat Great Britain on day one - Photo: BC Wheelchair Sports Association (BCWSA) / Kevin Bogetti-Smith

Canada gave the sell-out home crowd something to cheer by beating Great Britain 48-41 on the opening day of the World Wheelchair Rugby Championships at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Vancouver on Tuesday.

With school children waving flags and chanting 'Go Canada go!', the hosts used their aggressive man-to-man defence to force Great Britain to turn over the ball with hometown favourite Ian Chan a key figure with 10 goals in the victory.

Patrice Simard, though, was the top scorer for Canada with 12 goals, a figure matched by Great Britain's talisman Troye Collins, who played the most minutes of anyone on either side in the match with over 27.

"It was a great first win for us against a very quality opponent," admitted Canada head coach Kevin Orr. "We felt that GB was one of the strongest teams here at the tournament, so for us to come out with a win was very good for Team Canada."

Top seeds USA also made their intentions clear with a 55-36 defeat of Germany. The 2008 Paralympic champions had only led by three points at half time, but their physical play and fast tempo ultimately saw them to a comfortable win.

"It was good to win our first game and we'll go from here," said Chuck Aoki, who scored 21 goals in the match.

Australia, the side beaten 53-44 in the Paralympic Games final in Beijing last year, took time to find an answer for the speed and mobility of Japan's rookie player Daisuke Ikezaki but soon found their rhythm to triumph 65-52.

The most exciting game of the day, however, was the encounter between Scandinavian rivals Sweden and Finland. These teams were evenly matched and fans were treated to a speedy, hard-hitting showdown with the lead changing hands for much of the game.

Sweden ultimately claimed a 57-54 victory, but local fans were so impressed by Finnish player Leevi Ylönen that they crowded the court to get his autograph after the match.

"It was a good game," said Swedish captain Tobias Sandberg. "We came out a little bit nervous but we finished strong. The next game we have is against Great Britain, which is a much stronger team and we've got to go out and get them."

The two other matches on day one saw former Paralympic champions New Zealand hand 12th seeds Argentina their first loss in a major international match with a comfortable 62-18 triumph and Belgium defeat Poland 51-39.

The 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championship continues on Wednesday with eight games across the two courts with one of the highlights of the day set to be the USA v Great Britain encounter at 19:00 local time.

For the full tournament schedule or for more information on the World Championships visit www.2010wwrwc.com. Matches will also be webcast live at www.sportscanada.tv.

Wheelchair rugby is a team sport for male and female quadriplegics. The physically demanding full-contact sport is played indoors on a hardwood basketball court between two teams of four players. It is a unique sport that combines some elements of basketball, handball, and ice hockey, and was created in Canada in1977 by a group of athletes with a disability in Manitoba.