The Australian wheelchair rugby team has lost its number one world ranking after taking out bronze at the World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge in London over the weekend.
In a bittersweet ending to the tournament, the Steelers managed to beat Japan for a second time in five days to win bronze, after suffering a three-point loss to the USA in the semi-final.
“I’m really happy with the way we’ve finished the tournament off, especially after a tough loss which I think the boys have only just really got over, but I think it was a loss that needed to happen,” said Australian head coach Brad Dubberley.
“Of course, it’s disappointing to drop by two in the world rankings but we have an opportunity to get that back at the test event (in Rio) and we’ll only keep improving from here,” he continued.
Both teams exchanged early tries, as it was a game of patience and tactics to see who could overturn possession and start to build a lead.
With the scores all level in the early minutes, two of the team’s strongest 3.5 players Ryley Batt and Chris Bond scored four tries as Australia took a three point lead into the first interval.
Batt was given a breather on the touchline heading into the second quarter, and Bond, with the help of Matt Lewis, continued to upset Japan. Lewis managed to score a hat trick of tries in the second period as Japan let the lead slip to five points at half time with the score at 33-28.
The fourth quarter was routine for Australia as Japan struggled to overturn play as they desperately tried to get something from the game.
“The game was probably the best we played all week in terms of everyone playing and everyone getting a good run. The results really speak for themselves,” said Australian strength and conditioning coach Greg Smith.
“The scary thing for the rest of the world is that if we get everything right and get everything working, the boys will only go up another notch. Something to really look forward to next week when they play in Japan.”
The Steelers will now return to Australia before travelling to Japan next week to compete at the IWRF Asia Oceania qualifiers.
By APC and WWRC Media