The Australian Steelers have failed in their bid to become the first host nation to win an International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) World Championship on home soil.

Japan won the epic gold medal match 62-61 at Sydney Olympic Park, NSW, to become world champions for the first time.

For the Australians, defeat brought to an end their unbeaten reign at major tournaments, which included the 2014 World Championship and the 2016 and 2012 Paralympic Games.

Turnovers killed the Australians’ hopes of victory. They conceded seven in the second quarter, more than the total conceded in their six previous matches at the tournament.

Despite those mistakes, the Steelers were unbelievably gallant.

They were down by five tries in the third quarter, but fought their way back to level the scores with less than five minutes to play.

But Japan found a way to upset Australia’s offensive rhythm in the closing minutes and the decisive error came with 90 seconds remaining.

Down 60-59 and looking to level the scores again, a pass from Australian captain Ryley Batt failed to reach Chris Bond, and Japan converted the mistake into a two-goal lead.

The Steelers did level the scores once more at 61, but Japan controlled the final possession. Fittingly, it was another try from the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Daisuke Ikezaki (23 tries) that sealed the famous victory.

“Congrats to Japan, they deserved it,” said Australian Head Coach Brad Dubberley.

“At the end of the day, ultimately we killed ourselves. Essentially we gave up one more turnover in that game than we did for the entire tournament.

“We’re hurting. That looks stupid on our home turf, they have taken that away from us on our home turf.

“We’re gonna take it back off them on their home turf. Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, look out. To Japan, we’re coming. We’re taking it back.”

Batt was a shattered figure at full-time.

He led the scoring for Australia with 36 tries, while Bond (22 tries) and Jayden Warn (three) also crossed the line.

“Down by five in a final, the game was out of our reach. So the belief our boys showed to come back to take the lead again, that’s an absolute mammoth, mammoth effort,” Batt said.

“The momentum came back our way but unfortunately stupid errors really cost us. It’s just really, really frustrating that those simple errors came in a final.

“Credit to Japan, they played better than us. But at the end of the day I think we cost ourselves too.”

The Australian Steelers, sponsored by Allianz, still maintain their world No. 1 ranking, despite winning the silver medal.

Earlier, the USA won the bronze medal with a 47-36 victory over Great Britain.

Final standings
1. Japan
2. Australia
3. USA
4. Great Britain
5. France
6. Canada
7. Denmark
8. Sweden
9. Poland
10. Colombia
11. New Zealand
12. Ireland
Honour roll – IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships
Year World champion
2018 Japan
2014 Australia
2010 USA
2006 USA
2002 Canada
1998 USA
1995 USA
Australian Steelers – the road to the gold medal match at the 2018 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championship
Date Time (AEST) Match
5 August 14:00 Australia 66 def New Zealand 36 (ranked world No. 8)
6 August 12:30 Australia 61 def Sweden 38 (ranked world No. 6)
7 August 13:30 Australia 61 def Denmark 49 (ranked world No. 9)
8 August 10:00 Australia 70 def Ireland 44 (ranked world No. 19)
18:30 Australia 65 def Japan 52 (ranked world No. 4)
9 August 16:00 Semi-final / Australia 59 def Great Britain 57 (ranked world No. 5)
10 August 16:00 Gold medal match / Australia 61 def by Japan 62
The APC’s Australian Steelers sponsored by Allianz
Name Number State Classification Matches Debut
Ryley Batt (Captain) 3 NSW 3.5 280 2003
Jake Howe 4 WA 1.0 48 2017
Mick Ozanne 6 QLD 0.5 113 2013
Jason Lees 7 VIC 1.0 202 2009
Ben Fawcett 8 VIC 0.5 114 2013
Chris Bond 10 QLD 3.5 159 2011
Ryan Scott 11 QLD 0.5 288 2001
Andrew Edmondson 14 NSW 2.0 96 2014
Andrew Harrison 15 VIC 2.0 170 2007
Josh Nicholson 21 QLD 2.0 29 2017
Jayden Warn 23 VIC 3.0 120 2013

By Tim Mannion, APC Media
Posted: 10/08/2018