Sunday at the Accor Arena was shaping up to be an historic day – and it was! The very first handisport event to be held in the legendary arena in the 12th arrondissement of Paris proved to be a resounding success.
Australia makes its mark on the international stage
The final of the tournament pitted the two teams who had previously opened the competition at the Halle Carpentier against each other, Canada and Australia. The two best teams since Wednesday, the Canadians, who were unbeaten, and the Australians, who had just one defeat on their record… against the same Canada, and by just one point!
The final promised to be a wide-open affair, with the dynamic forwards in fine form, such as Madell and Bond. The first half was very evenly balanced on both sides, with the Steelers relying on their aggressive defence to take a 26-25 half-time lead. The second half only served to accentuate this trend, as the Australians never let up, and in fact controlled the game right up until the buzzer. A victory that could not have been more logical given the game. The Steelers’ next objective is to secure their ticket to the Paralympic Games and return to Paris in less than a year’s time.
In the match for 3rd place, the Japanese and the French met again as in the group stage, but this time on the floor of the Accor Arena. It was a different kind of match too, a decisive one for a spot on the podium. The French fans had taken note of the date and packed into the stands to support their team. This support was crucial, as Les Bleus led the way for most of the match in a frenzied atmosphere. They outplayed their Japanese counterparts, but broke down in the last two minutes when they had a two-try lead. Three careless throw-ins led to three lost balls, each of which resulted in three Japanese tries. It was a final that sent the crowd into raptures, as did the French team, who were so well on their way in their quest for bronze. As a result, Japan climbed to 3rd place on the podium and the host nation finished 4th, which was still a positive result for Bob Vanacker’s team, both overall and in terms of the content of the matches.
The clash for 5th place between the United States and Great Britain was not really expected so early in the day. The fixture was the last final of the Paralympic Games, where the British won gold under the nose of Team USA. So we had two teams facing each other with a sense of revenge and wanting to make up for a disappointing tournament. In the end, it was the reigning Paralympic champions who got the better of their opponents and gave a little more depth to a tournament that had fallen short of their expectations. As for the Americans, despite getting off to a flying start against the French team, they looked more and more out of sorts physically as the competition wore on.
The opening match of the day saw two teams in search of their first win of the tournament, New Zealand and Denmark. Despite an excellent start from the WheelBlacks, they were unable to hold on for long periods, probably due to their shallow bench strength, as they only came to Paris with 7 players. Denmark raised their game in the second half to take 7th place in the tournament. Despite being bronze medallists at the last European Championship, the Danes did not appear to be in top form during the competition and were unable to compete with the best teams in the world.
The final day brought the International Cup to a close with a fireworks display featuring some great teams and players. The French public were able to discover or rediscover this sport and its special characteristics, and all the spectators were won over by this unique sport! Paris will once again be the capital of wheelchair rugby in 10 months’ time for the 2024 Paralympic Games, with the best teams in the world chasing, a golden dream.
The final ranking
Winner – Australia
Finalist – Canada
3rd – Japan
4th – France
5th – Great Britain
6th – United States
7th – Denmark
8th – New Zealand
MVPs by classification
0.5 : Jack Smith – Great Britain
1: Lee Fredette – USA
1.5 : Cédric Nankin – France
2: Cody Caldwell – Canada
2.5 : Cameron Leslie – New Zealand
3 : Jonathan Hivernat – France
3.5 : Zak Madell – Canada