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The Australian Steelers have progressed to the quarter-final at the World Wheelchair Rugby Championship, but could only finish second in Pool B to miss an easier path to the medal rounds.

With Pool B supremacy on the line in their final qualifying match against Japan on Thursday, the Steelers were defeated 54-50 in a highly-anticipated battle between the undefeated rivals who both inflicted heavy defeats on Brazil, Denmark, Canada and Colombia earlier this week.

Directed by head coach Brad Dubberley to make a strong start against the world number one team, the Steelers failed to comply. They conceded the first goal after losing the tip-off, before Japan’s defensive pressure forced Steelers’ captain Chris Bond to throw a wayward inbound pass over the sideline on the very next play.

Down by two goals in the first minute and with their opponents on a high, the Australians never got a chance to dictate the contest.

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“For me, probably the most disappointing thing is we killed our own chances, more than anything. A lot of it is correctable, but against teams like Japan you can’t make the amount of errors that we made,” Dubberley said.

“When the whole message is about trying to get off to a good start, we were just scrapping from the get-go because we started horribly. That’s what has set up a lot of our victories at this tournament, getting off to a good solid start.

“Japan just applied pressure. When we made the errors, especially at the start, they made us pay for it. They spread the court well and they were patient and controlled.

“I think they showed what it’s going to take to win.”

The result added another chapter to the fierce rivalry cultivated by the two nations in recent years, headlined by Japan’s victories in the Paralympic Games bronze medal match last year in Tokyo and the 2018 World Championship gold medal match in Sydney.

The Steelers are now hoping to turn the tables, like Japan did at the previous World Championship, when they won the gold medal despite being defeated by Australia in their pool match.

The Australian captain certainly believes that scenario is more than a possibility.

“Sudden death finals, how good. That’s the first box ticked, making the finals. It’s a whole new competition from here,” Bond said.

“Japan are always very tough to play and they applied the kind of pressure that we need to deal with coming into the finals. We know we can get better and now we’ll reset.

“We’re confident. We played the world number one team today. They came first in our pool and we were second so it’s still on. We haven’t lost anything really.

“If we change a couple of those unforced errors today, stuff that we usually get right, it would have been a tight game or we would have won.

“So our heads are up. We’re ready to move on to the next game.”

The Steelers now face the third-ranked team in Pool A, reigning Paralympic champions Great Britain, while Japan have earned an ostensibly safer assignment against Pool A’s fourth-ranked team, New Zealand. in sudden-death quarter-finals.

On the other side of the draw, Pool A winners France will clash with Denmark while Canada will face arch-rivals, the United States.

All matches will be streamed live via the event website

2022 Wheelchair Rugby World Championship: Vejle, Denmark October 10-16

Australian Steelers – Fixtures and Results (times are AEDT) – visit our Steelers online hub

Oct 11: AUS 57 def BRA 36 and AUS 55 def CAN 53 (watch the replay)
Oct 13: AUS 55 def DEN 43 – watch the replay
Oct 13: AUS 54 def COL 42 – watch the replay
Oct 14: JPN 54 def AUS 50 – watch the replay


Friday 14 October
20:00 Japan vs New Zealand
23:45 Canada vs United States

Saturday 15 October
02:00 France vs Denmark
04:15 Australia vs Great Britain – watch live

United States
Great Britain
New Zealand


By: Tim Mannion, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 14 October 2022
Image: Lars Møller-Parasport Danmark