Sweden stun Canada in Wheelchair Rugby

(IRB.COM) Friday 24 September 2010
 Sweden stun Canada in Wheelchair Rugby
- Photo: BC Wheelchair Sports Association (BCSWA) / Kevin Bogetti-Smith

Sweden silenced the home crowd at the World Wheelchair Rugby Championships on Thursday by denting Canada's hopes of a medal with a 52-51 victory in the first match to go into overtime at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Vancouver.

The Canadians looked to have the match in the bag, but a few costly turnovers allowed Sweden to erase a six-point deficit to tie the scores. A chance to win the match went bagging, leaving the scores tied at 48-48 with overtime looming.

Sweden, coached by former Canada coach Marco Dispaltro, won the overtime tip-off and scored the first goal with the hosts unable to force a turnover to get back on level terms, sparking celebrations among a small contingent of yellow and blue clad fans at the final buzzer.

"It was a really big win ... amazing actually," admitted Sweden captain Tobias Sandberg, who top scored in the match with 22 goals. "We're ranked number six and they're ranked number three, so every team higher is a big win.

"One thing we have is heart ... that's why we won today."

Canada's Trevor Hirschfield added: "We had the chance to turn the knife and we let off a bit. We took our foot off the gas. The competition is so much better now so if you let up the teams catch up to you."

The hosts, with a record of won three, lost one, must now beat Paralympic champions and top seeds USA on Friday to remain in contention for a World Championship medal on home soil.

The USA sent an ominous message to their rivals with two big victories on day three, beating Finland 65-44 despite another strong performance from their star Leevi Ylönen with 26 goals.

The Paralympic champions then finished the day with a flourish by bringing Sweden back down to earth with 63-26 victory, Chuck Aoki and Will Groulx leading the way with 16 and 17 goals respectively.

Poland were another nation to spring a surprise, beating fifth seeds New Zealand 45-43 only a day after picking up their first ever win at the World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. Their aggressive play caused problems for the 2004 Paralympic champions, who had suffered a surprise loss to Belgium on Wednesday.

The New Zealand Wheelblacks then suffered another defeat, this time at the hands of their nearest rivals Australia, the 2008 Paralympic Games runners-up led again by star player Ryley Batt with a 28-point haul in their 53-43 win.

Belgium enjoyed contrasting fortunes on day three, overwhelming Argentina 80-32 with Bob Vanacker (24) and Ludwig Budener (31) scoring more than half of their side's goals in the match.

However, they then slipped to a 60-59 loss to Japan. Belgium had only the required four players in their line-up for the encounter, but despite an astonishing 47 goals from Lars Mertens they ended up losing to a Daisuke Ikezaki inspired Japanese outfit.

The other game on Wednesday brought together two teams searching for a first victory of the tournament in Germany and Great Britain, the latter edging a tight affair 48-46 to get off the mark.

The pool stages of the tournament conclude on Friday with the play-offs matches, semi finals and medal matches taking place over the weekend.