Australia back on track at Tri Nations
The stage is set for a thrilling climax to the Be The Influence Wheelchair Rugby Tri-Nations in Sydney, after Australia shocked the United States in the final pool match on Thursday night.
In front of a packed crowd at St Mary’s Cathedral Square, the Australian Steelers defeated Team USA 64-53 – one of the worst defeats ever suffered by the world number ranked one team.
It was Australia’s first win over the Americans on home soil and just their second victory from the previous 10 clashes between the two bitter rivals. The US defeated Australia 56-43 in the tournament’s opening game on Wednesday.
But it was the Steelers’ day on Thursday with their starting line-up of Ryley Batt, Chris Bond, Naz Erdem and Ryan Scott playing every second of the contest on the purpose-built arena to help ensure their side will enter Friday’s finals brimming with confidence.
Australia will now meet New Zealand in the semi-final at 12pm, with the winner progressing to the gold medal match against the USA at 5pm.
Chris Bond, who scored 25 goals for Australia, said the 11-goal victory will go down as one of the most memorable of his career.
“It was reminiscent of the huge crowds we saw at the London Paralympics, but with more Aussies. I had a lot of friends here so that made me push that little bit harder and put some more hits on. But above all else, we made sure that we got that win,” Bond said.
“We’re ecstatic. I’ve never beaten the US so to do it on home soil in front of a home crowd going bananas, it was just amazing.
“That would have stung the US. They would have been expecting the win tonight and to cruise into the final untouched. But it just goes to show what we are capable of.”
Bond said his team must now regroup and focus on overcoming New Zealand in order to secure their place in the gold medal game.
“The body is holding up okay. We have prepared really well for this tournament and our support staff have been meticulous in getting our recovery right,” Bond said.
“I’m not going to lie. I’m tired because I’ve played some big minutes and it was a very physical, tough game but I’ll be ready when the time comes."
American coach James Gumbert admits his team has a lot of work to do to contain Bond and his partner in crime Batt, who led the scoring for Australia with 39 goals.
“It was obvious Australia was gunning to win this game. They have for a long time wanted to notch a victory against us,” Gumbert said.
“It will be interesting to see tomorrow if they come out and run just the same four or if they try to develop. They came away with a victory so at the end of the day, good for them.
“We challenge ourselves to our own standards no matter who we play. Tonight we played ok but we didn’t play to our potential and we know that. We’re going to have to look and see what we can get better at.
“You know yesterday we had great success and today we found some areas we got to get better at. But you know, hat’s off to them, they earned it.”
For the Americans, Chuck Aoki (27 goals) led the scorers while Derrick Helton (12 goals), Joe Delagrave (nine goals), Chuck Melton (three goals) and Josh Wheeler (two goals) also contributed.
Australia v New Zealand
Earlier in the day Australia claimed victory over the New Zealand WheelBlacks, 57-41.
New Zealand looked a new team on court at St Mary’s Cathedral Square, fired up after last night’s loss to the Australian Steelers, and played with renewed aggression against their cross-Tasman foes with big hits a-plenty for the Thursday afternoon crowd.
But after keeping scores tight throughout much of the first half, the Australians found their mojo and kicked into gear, taking a 12 point lead into half time. From there, the Steelers were too strong despite the physical intensity of New Zealand, and forced a 16 goal lead to win the game.
Batt lead the game’s scoring with 30 goal, followed by Chris Bond with 14 and Curtis Palmer with six. Meanwhile New Zealand high-pointer Cameron Leslie dominated proceedings from their end with 15 goals, followed by captain Dan Buckingham (10 goals) and Barney Koneferinisi (nine goals).
For Leslie, who recently returned from representing New Zealand at the IPC Swimming World Championships last month, having the chance to play the two best teams in the world in Australia and the USA is an opportunity for the WheelBlacks to improve.
“Every time you play against Australia with Ryley and Bond on the court, they are always coming at you, hitting you, spinning you around and trying to push you over the sidelines. You are definitely feeling it by the end of the game,” said Leslie, who spent time in the penalty box for his hard hits.
“It’s been good for us. We are getting to play the top two teams in the world so we are learning constantly. We did well to keep up with them for as long as we did. But that weather made it a tough job. It was pretty bloody hot.”
The tournament at St Mary’s Cathedral Square concludes tomorrow (Friday).
|Tri Nations Results - Sydney Australia|
|Wednesday, September 18, 2013||Score|
|10:45 AM||United States vs. Australia||56-43|
|5:30 PM||New Zealand vs. Australia||40-58|
|7:30 PM||Australia vs. New Zealand||62-48|
|Thursday, September 19, 2013
|12:30 PM||New Zealand vs. Australia||41-57|
|5:30 PM||New Zealand vs. United States||36-62|
|7:30 PM||United States vs. New Zealand||53-64|
|Friday, September 20, 2013||Score|
|12:00 PM||Semi-final - Australia vs. New Zealand||62-45|
|5:00 PM||Final - Australia vs. United States|
Game 4 – AUS v NZL
F/T: AUS 57-41
Australia – 57
Goal scorers: Ryley Batt 30, Chris Bond 14, Curtis Palmer 6, Josh Hose 4, Cameron Carr 2, Andrew Harrison 1.
New Zealand – 41
Goal scorers: Cameron Leslie 15, Dan Buckingham 10, Barney Koneferinisi 9, Clayton Utia 4, Sholto Taylor 2, Rob Hewitt 1.
Game 6 – AUS v USA
1/4 – AUS 15-14
H/T – AUS 31-30
3/4 – AUS 47-39
F/T – AUS 64-53
Australia – 64
Goal scorers: Ryley Batt 39, Chris Bond 25.
USA – 53
Goal scorers: Chuck Aoki 27, Derrick Helton 12, Joe Delagrave 9, Chuck Melton 3, Josh Wheeler 2
Article and photos courtesy of Australian Paralympic Committee