Belgium cause Wheelchair Rugby upset

(IRB.COM) Thursday 23 September 2010
 Belgium cause Wheelchair Rugby upset
Belgium upset the Wheelblacks on day two - Photo: BC Wheelchair Sports Association (BCSWA) / Kevin Bogetti-Smith

Belgium caused the first upset of the World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, beating former Paralympic champions New Zealand on a day of firsts at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Vancouver on Wednesday.

The fourth seeds, something of an unknown quantity after losing a key experienced player, came out firing on all cylinders to surprise the New Zealand Wheelblacks 53-45 with Lars Mertens scoring 34 of Belgium's goals in the win.

"It was not easy at all, it was really tough against the 2004 Olympic champions," admitted Mertens. "We knew we had a chance but we needed to do it on the court and we're happy we won it."

The downfall for New Zealand, who beat Argentina 62-18 on day one, was "just too many basic errors" according to Jai Waite, who added "a lot of it was just our mistakes, which is disappointing."

The second day of the World Championships was a day of firsts with history being made in hosts Canada's match with Finland with three female athletes on the court at an international event for the first time in the sport's history.

Canada's Miranda Biletski and Erika Schmutz certainly played their part in helping the hosts eventually see off the challenge of a spirited Finland 55-46, their 11th ranked visitors inspired again by Leevi Ylönen with his 29-goal contribution.

Three from three

"We got off to a bit of a slow start at the beginning but it just kind of proves our training and how it has paid when you are able to swing 13 points and end up winning by 10. It was that extra effort to push and get it back," said Biletski.

Finland may have lost their second match, having been edged 57-54 by Sweden on day one,
but captain Toni Pilspanen admitted the encounter with Canada had given the whole squad a boost for the rest of the tournament.

"Amazing game," he said. "We didn't expect it to be like this. We were actually leading after the second period. It gives us encouragement for the next game. It was great fun."

Canada went on to make it three wins out of three with another hard fought victory, this time 47-39 over Germany. The Germans, helped by the aggressive play of Maik Baumann, kept it tight until the final quarter when Canada slowly pulled away.

"It was a close game. The only chance they had to stay close was to go back in the key and slow the pace of the game and that's what they did and kept it close but we found a way to win the game," said Patrice Simard.

Australia, runners up at last year's Paralympic Games in Beijing, also remain unbeaten after overcoming Poland 54-37 earlier in the day with Ryley Batt again the star attraction with 34 goals in the victory.

First win for Poland

Poland, though, bounced back from the loss to create their own piece of World Championship history with a first ever win on the stage - 65-25 over Argentina with Gontarz Slawomir, Gogosz Lukasz and Goebel Joanna all scoring 11 goals.

"This is the first game we've won in a World Championship," said Rafal Rocki afterwards. "It is a good victory and now we are happy."

Argentina also suffered another heavy loss on Wednesday with Japan running out convincing 84-21 winners in the opening match, new star Daisuke Ikezaki and Shin Shimakawa contributing more than half the Asian side's goals between them.

Great Britain were another team to suffer two losses on day two, the first a 46-45 loss to Sweden. Great Britain had bravely fought back to trail by a point and had the ball with seconds remaining, but a pass went wide and the Swedes could celebrate.

"It was a tough game,"admitted Mandip Sehmi. "It's just unfortunate really. We should be proud the way we came back. Our start wasn't the greatest but every team has a bad start. We showed a lot of character to come back the way we did."

The second loss came at the hands of Paralympic champions and top seeds USA, who ran out 54-45 winners. The tournament favourites can now look forward to matches against Finland and Sweden on Thursday as the action continues.

For the full tournament schedule or for more information on the World Championships Matches will also be webcast live