The Australian Steelers have failed in their bid to become the first host nation to win an IWRF World Championship on home soil.
Japan won the epic gold medal match 62-61 at Sydney Olympic Park 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 to 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 World Championship MVP 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.”
Australian captain Ryley Batt was a shattered figure at full-time.
Batt 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 number one ranking, despite winning the silver medal.
Earlier, the United States won the bronze medal with a 47-36 victory over Great Britain.
- United States
- Great Britain
- New Zealand
HONOUR ROLL – IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships
2018 – Japan
2014 – Australia
2010 – United States
2006 – United States
2002 – Canada
1998 – United States
1995 – United States
Australian Steelers – the road to the gold medal match at the 2018 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championship
|Date||Time||Event / Match|
|Sunday, 5th August||14:00||AUS 66 – 36 New Zealand (ranked 8th)|
|Monday, 6th August||12:30||AUS 71 – 38 Sweden (ranked 6th)|
|Tuesday, 7th August||13:30||AUS 61 – 49 Denmark (ranked 9th)|
|Wednesday, 8th August||10:00||AUS 70 – 44 Ireland (ranked 19th)|
|Wednesday, 8th August||18:30||AUS 65 – 52 Japan (ranked 4th)|
|Thursday, 9th August||16:00||Semi-final
AUS 59 – 57 Great Britain (ranked 5th)
|Friday 10th August||13:30
BRONZE MEDAL FINAL
USA 47 – 36 Great Britain
GOLD MEDAL FINAL
Japan 62 – 61 Australia
The APC’s Australian Steelers sponsored by Allianz:
|Ryley Batt (c)||3||NSW||3.5||280||2003|
By Tim Mannion, APC Media