Australia Defends Wheelchair Rugby Gold Medal

The three flags are raised at the medal ceremony (Photo: IWRF)

Australia has successfully defended their London 2012 Wheelchair Rugby crown, winning a thrilling double overtime match against the United States. The win marks the first time Australia has ever beaten the United States in a competitive match, while Japan picked up their first ever wheelchair rugby medal.

Japan managed their first ever Paralympic wheelchair rugby medal as Japan managed to hold on for a win in the bronze medal match. Japan managed to defeat Canada 52-50 completing what has been an impressive two years for the Japanese side.

It was a strong start from Japan as they forced four Canadian turnovers in the first quarter to take a 17-13 lead. In the second quarter Canada looked to improve, getting better but still trailing heavily at the half 29-25.

The third quarter was where Canada really started to go for the match and try and get back in to the match. With just 0.2 seconds on the clock Miranda Biletski rolled over the line to cut the Japan lead to 40-38 heading in to the final quarter.

But in the final quarter Japan did the job, they held out Canada and maintained their two goal lead, winning 52-50. Yet again the high pointers Daisuke Ikezaki and Yukinobu Ike were the stars of the side, combining for 37 goals.

Australia had never beaten the United States in a competitive match before Sunday’s final, which had the United States confident. But Australia came in as defending champions and after a strong tournament felt confident of beating that history.

The two top ranked sides in the world could not be separated, with the lead changing throughout the match. Australia thought they’d managed to seal the win when they forced a turnover late in the fourth quarter but the United States pushed back and scored twice late to level it at 49 to send the match to overtime.

The United States won the opening tip of overtime and so they controlled the ball throughout the first period. The Steelers were able to score with under two seconds when Ryley Batt found Chris Bond who just got over the line to send it to a second period of overtime.

Australia had first possession in the second period of overtime and with little time to go, the USA had one last chance. Australia was able to heavily push out Josh Wheeler, giving Australia possession with 2.3 seconds remaining which the Steelers wore down to claim their second straight gold medal and first win over the United States in a competitive match.

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