DAY 2 - Canada beats Denmark, loses to Japan

The second day of the 2018 Canada Cup saw many close games, as the hosts got a win in front of a full house, the Americans pulled ahead from the pack and Australia and Denmark both earned their first wins.

GAME #4 CANADA vs Denmark

With over 300 screaming fans in attendance from James Gilmore Elementary School, the hosts from Team Canada won their second match of the tournament 58-51 over Denmark and introduced a new generation to wheelchair rugby.

It was fast-paced game right from the start with both teams playing very physical and exchanging tries. At the end of the 1st it was all tied at 16.

In the second quarter, Canada pulled ahead by 3 and led 31-28 at halftime, thanks to their high-pressure defense and 8 tries for Fabien Lavoie who finished the game with a team-high 14 tries.

The third quarter would see much of the same as Canada outscored Denmark 15-11 and took a seven-point lead from which the Danes would never recover.

Matt Debly and Anthonhy Létourneau made their Canada Cup debuts in the fourth quarter as Canada maintained the seven-point for the remainder of the match.

“I thought both Anthony and Matt did pretty well. Obviously they both had a bit of nerves coming in but I thought both of them were on task and displayed a very good level of composure regarding the situations they were in. I’m very proud of both guys” said Team Canada head coach Patrick Côté.

After the game Canadian Trevor Hirschfield said “We stuck to our game plan for a major portion of today’s game against Denmark. We took a lead into the 2nd half and never let up. It’s good for the young guys to see that when we focus and work hard in practice and in training camps, it will carry over to the game” about the team’s performance/crowd/certain player

Sebastien Fredriksen led Denmark with a game-high 24 tries.

GAME #5 Australia vs USA

In the second match of the day, the United States used a stifling key defense to contain Australia’s attack and win 54-51.

Australia struck first and took a 16-15 lead. The Americans would answer back in the second quarter by using their key defense to force a couple turnovers and to take a 26-25 lead at halftime.

Once in the lead, the Americans would not relinquish it for the rest of the game and went on to win 54-51.

After the game, coach James Gumbert said “unity” has been the Eagles key to success so far at the tournament

“Everybody’s playing on the same page,” he said “We have a lot of great athletes and being able to be a great team is our biggest challenge, so to see the contribution and the passion that everybody believes in each other has been big in both games.”                

GAME #6: Denmark vs Sweden
Denmark won an exciting match-up between Scandinavian rivals 50-48.

The two teams play each often and were both in search of their first win. It was a tense first quarter that ended deadlocked at 12 with both teams using a timeout.

In the second quarter, Denmark gave their 3.5-3.0-1.0-0.5 line-up an extended run. They upped the defensive pressure and capitalized off of some Swedish passing errors to pull ahead by four at halftime 27-23.

Sweden would claw a couple goals back in the second half but never retook the lead as Denmark rolled through their lines and held on for the win.

Danish 3.0 Leon Jørgenson was happy with his team’s performance and the progress their newer players are making at the Canada Cup.

“It was nice to get our first win at Canada Cup and against Sweden, our Scandinavian rival,” he said. “We have a lot of new guys at this level, so playing at this top level is huge for us”

GAME #7 USA vs Japan

The United States scored a thrilling victory over Japan in Saturday’s round robin matchup courtesy of a last second try by their star 3.0 Chuck Aoki.

The 51-50 win moved the Americans to an impressive 3-0 in the opening round, earning them a strong chance at advancing to the final.

Prior to tipoff this match was billed as a possible finals preview, with both teams unbeaten through their opening games. For Japan, this included a determined 67-66 overtime victory against Australia the previous evening.

The Eagles had notched a 55-39 win over Denmark on opening day and beat Australia 54-51 in the rematch of the Rio 2016 final.

The first half proved to be fairly even, with the USA taking a slight 28-26 advantage into the break. Showing why they are one of the top teams at the tournament however, Japan stormed back in the third quarter to level things 38-38 heading into the final frame.

The stars were on display in the final eight minutes, with the American combination of Josh Wheeler and Chuck Aoki hooking up for several tries. Japan countered with the strong play of Daisuke Ikezaki and Yukinobo Ike to keep the score tied into the dying moments.

After Japan tied the game at 50 with just 4.6 seconds left, Wheeler launched the inbounds pass to half court where it was snagged by teammate Joe Delagrave. Delagrave handed the ball off to a waiting Aoki, who blasted over the touch line as time expired for the win.

The American bench erupted in celebration, rushing to congratulate Aoki after his heroics. The nine year veteran of the team, and 2016 Canada Cup MVP, broke down the play after the match.

“We talk about what we want to do in that situation when there’s under five seconds,” said Aoki. “Josh [Wheeler] can throw the ball really far, so the plan is to get him up deep, then Joe [Delagrave] and I fly up and see if we can come together.”

USA had looked to take some control in the fourth quarter, but a string of turnovers allowed Japan to close the gap and ultimately equalize going into the final minutes. Aoki explained that team mentality allowed them to not get too frustrated by the mistakes.

“We don’t back down when we face adversity,” Aoki explained. “We know that we can keep fighting, get turnovers, and get goals. We have a really good group of guys who are able to stay composed throughout the highs and lows.”

Head coach James Gumbert was proud of how his team came together in the deciding moments to grab the win.

“We tell them never quit on each other. When one person has a bad moment, somebody else steps up,” said Gumbert. “The thing that we’ve built our team around isn’t one person, it’s the team itself.”

USA will now get set for a marquee matchup against hosts Canada on Saturday. Despite being the favorites, the Americans know they’ll have a battle on their hands.

“It’s like playing our brothers. We’ve learned a long time ago that you can throw all the records out,” said Gumbert of the upcoming game. “Easily this will be the most motivated game that we play until now because of all the history that goes behind it.”

GAME #8 Australia vs Sweden

Australia finally found themselves in the win column on Friday evening, defeating Sweden in a commanding 71-34 wire to wire victory.

The Australian team had come into the tournament as one of the favorites. However after an opening day overtime loss to Japan, and an earlier loss to the Americans find themselves needing some help if they’re going to make the final. 

This still did not stop them from having a dominant game against a Swedish team that is looking for their first win of the tournament.

Ryley Batt and Chris Bond were the top scorers for Australia, who managed to give the full squad playing time.

Australian 2.0 Andrew Edmonson said that the tournament is providing Australia with a fantastic opportunity ahead of hosting the World Championships.
 

“We had our best game so far, we also get an opportunity to get some new guys some court time and for the rest of the tournament, that’s what its going to be about to get some momentum before Worlds.”

Swedish coach Benoit Labreque also ran lines throughout the game, giving his less experienced players an opportunity to get on court and work against the world’s #1 ranked team.

Australia will face Denmark and Canada on Saturday to close out round-robin play

Sweden meanwhile will look to grab a win before the tournament closes, with USA and Japan left on their schedule.

GAME #9: CANADA vs Japan

In the final game of the day, Japan ended Canada’s unbeaten streak winning 53- behind another dominant performance from Daisuke Ikezaki.

The match started out tight with both teams exchanging tries and small 1-2 point leads throughout the first quarter. Japan held a 11-10 lead after the first frame in which both teams made a couple substitutions.

In the second quarter, Japan began to pull ahead slightly and had a 28-24 lead at halftime as the Canadians continued to roll their lines, and give young players more experience.

Japan stretched their lead out in the second half as Ikezaki racked up plenty of tries. He would finish the game with a game-high 23 tries.

10 of the 12 Canadians made the scoresheet as 19-year-old Branden Troutman scored a team-high 10 tries in his Canada Cup debut.

All games are archived on www.sportscanada.tv/wheelchairrugby and tournament info including rosters, the game schedule and statistics can be found online at www.canadacupwcrugby.com

Japan will conclude round-robin play tomorrow against Sweden and Denmark, while Canada will play Australia and the United States.