USA win World Wheelchair Rugby title

(IRB.COM) Monday 27 September 2010
 
 USA win World Wheelchair Rugby title
USA celebrate retaining their title in Vancouver - Photo: BC Wheelchair Sports Association (BCSWA) / Kevin Bogetti-Smith

USA lived up to their billing as favourites with a 57-45 defeat of Australia in the final to successfully defend their World Wheelchair Rugby Championship title at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Vancouver.

In a repeat of last year's Paralympic final in Beijing, the title decider was a physical encounter with some hits which kept the sell-out crowd gasping, although yellow card fouls didn't help Australia's cause.

Ryley Batt, who was named the tournament's MVP, once again starred for Australia with half their goals, but with double figure contributions from Chance Sumner, Will Groulx and Andy Cohn, the USA came out on top again for the third major crown in a row.

"Every championship is very special," admitted Groulx afterwards. "We work really hard and every team is different that we play with. The competition is always different so every championship that we win, they are all different and they are all just as special as the last.

"We had a great team, we knew that coming in. We felt that we had seen everything we could see. We even overcame some adversity in playing some very tough games.

"Canada came out and played a phenomenal game against us and we scratched and clawed and pulled it off in the end (49-48) and so that helped us. It prepared us very well coming into this.

Learning experience

Andy Cohn added: "We'll enjoy this a little bit but then we have to get started for the Paralympics in 2012 in London. We're going to have to keep pushing ourselves if we want to stay on top."

Australia, for their part, are hoping to learn from another final loss to USA.

"We just didn't string it together unfortunately when it counted," admitted Bryce Alman. "We had a great campaign. We went through the pools undefeated, six games straight.

"We sort of buckled a little bit. We'll have to take it as a learning experience and go away and try and come back a bit better next time."

While the USA claimed another major title, Japan had cause to celebrate after securing a first ever bronze medal with a 53-48 victory over Sweden, to the delight of their costumed fans.

Sweden did lead briefly in the first quarter and stayed within a few points of the Japanese for most of the game, but their tendency to pick up fouls proved costly.

New era for Japan?

"It is the best day ever," enthused Shin Shimakawa, who along with new star Daisuke Ikezaki scored 15 goals in the bronze medal game. "My dream hasn't come true yet, which is for gold, but this was the aim.

"We think many new players will start playing wheelchair rugby in Japan. Maybe we will be able to get some money from the Government to help us."

Host nation Canada, the only side to get really close to the champions during the tournament, bounced back from the disappointment of the one-point loss to beat Great Britain 59-54 in the fifth place play-off.

"It's sweet that we finished together as a team, bitter that we didn't finish higher in the standings," said Canadian veteran Garett Hickling afterwards. "But it's going to help us push harder for 2010 and we'll go for all we've got there."

The only other game on the final day of the Championship saw Belgium, led with a 20-goal haul by Lars Mertens, overcome Poland 52-42 to finish seventh. Poland, though, can still look back on a positive tournament, having picked up their first ever World Championships wins in the pools.

"We won our last game so we are happy," said Belgium captain Bob Vanacker. "We were really close to reach the semis and we didn't so everyone was a bit down so we had to really keep them up. We started well. For Belgium when we start well we can play a good game."

For the full tournament schedule or for more information on the World Championships visitwww.2010wwrc.com.