The final day of the group phase promised to send the Halle Carpentier into an absolute frenzy, and we were not disappointed! It was an absolutely crazy day, rounded off by a breathtaking Japan-France match.
The Japanese and the Tricolores faced off in a decisive duel. The hosts were desperate for a win to advance to the semi-finals, while the Japanese already had one foot in the last four. The atmosphere was electric before kick-off, with the crowd going wild and the athem sung in unison.
In the opening minutes, the two teams seemed to be on equal terms, exploiting every opportunity and possession of the ball. France, needing to win to continue their run, took every possible risk in the first half. Those risks paid off, with Les Bleus leading by +4 at the break.
Up front, captain Jonathan Hivernat was in exceptional form, flying over the pitch and converting every one of his team’s recoveries and passes. In defence, Cédric Nankin and Les Bleus disgusted and thwarted the Japanese attacks. France, more determined than ever, managed to extend their lead, surpassing a Japanese team that had dominated the competition until now. Buoyed by a frenzied crowd, Les Bleus won the match in spectacular fashion, 50-49, and snatched qualification at the buzzer, thanks to a try from the inevitable Hivernat.
Paralympic champions miss out
The British had their backs against the wall this morning, determined to win against Canada, who were unbeaten until then. The British showed from the very first seconds that they had not underestimated either the match or their opponents. Canada, quick to win the ball back from the start, opened the scoring. But the British, whose survival in the competition depended on this match, held on tightly, competing with a spirited Canadian team.
On the restart, the Phipps-Robinson duo seemed to transcend the British game, with the intensity of the match reaching its peak, but Canada remained unperturbed, not relinquishing the lead with Zak Madell piling on the tries. In a breathless finale, the Paralympic champions narrowly missed out on an equaliser, seeing their hopes of a semi-final place extinguished with one second remaining by losing 47-48. Canada thus ensured their qualification and preserved their unbeaten record in the tournament.
In the same group, Australia also had to beat Denmark, who had not won a game so far. Stung in their pride, the Danes managed to hold off the world champions at the break. But after the break, despite neither side wanting to concede a single try, the Steelers eventually took the lead. The Australians maintained their lead thanks to an unstoppable attack led by Batt, ending Denmark’s hopes of qualification with an emphatic 57-50 victory.
In the other match of the day, the United States easily disposed of the Wheel Blacks. It was a futile victory, however, as they eventually finished 3rd, a performance that fell short of the expectations of the world’s number one team.
The final rankings
Starting tomorrow, it’s time for the final four! Two matches between 4 heavyweights of the world circuit to reach the final at the Accor Arena. The non-qualified teams will play classification matches for places 5 to 8.