Sept. 16, 2016 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Canada’s wheelchair rugby team took it to overtime against Australia tonight for the first time in eight years, but fell just short of securing the win. Tomorrow, they’ll play their rivals, the USA, in what promises to be an exciting semi-final battle.
“It’s nice to play Australia that close, though it’s disappointing not to get the ‘W’ in the end,” said co-captain Trevor Hirschfield. “It was an incredible team effort, and for what we put on the court there, I’m really proud of the guys.”
Canada has not beaten the powerhouse Australian squad in a major competition since 2006. In the gold medal game of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Canada lost 66-51. When the two teams met in June at the 2016 Canada Cup International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament, Australia defeated Canada 54-43.
Tonight’s game resembled more of a chess match than some of the hit-heavy crash-fests that have characterized previous meetings between the two teams. Coaches Kevin Orr and Brad Dubberley moved their athletes into different lineups and defenses, strategically countering each other’s moves. Both teams committed remarkably few turnovers: five for Australia, and six for Canada.
Australia led for most of the game, but a pair of back-to-back steals by Cody Caldwell and Trevor Hirschfield tied it up with four minutes left in regulation play. Though Madell was just a split second away from scoring the winning goal, the match went into overtime. A rare inbound error by Trevor Hirschfield put Canada one goal behind, and they never recovered. Australia won 63-62.
“This was the most competitive match that we’ve played against them in years, so it was a great team effort,” said Orr. “I’m really, really proud of what we put out there.”
Now, Canada will square off against the USA in the semi-finals at 12:45 Saturday at Carioca 1. Canada and the USA have an historic rivalry that was famously captured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Murderball.” Last August, Canada thrilled crowds at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games when the team came from behind to beat the USA 57-54 and qualify for Rio. They hope to have a similar result tomorrow.
“We’re focusing on playing our game, not playing their game,” said Orr. “We know it’s going to go down to the wire, we know it’s going to be exciting, but we just need to focus on playing Canada rugby.”
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