Britain sign off with second Rugby win of the day
8 months ago
Great Britain’s Wheelchair Rugby team saved their best till last as they signed off from London 2012 with their second win of the day at the Basketball Arena this evening.
Britain produced their top performance of the Games to outclass Sweden and secure fifth place in the tournament.
They matched their world ranking thanks to a 59-47 victory against the European champions after they had overcome Belgium in the 5-8 semi-final this morning.
Following Britain’s victory over France in the group stage, it means GB finish as the top-ranked European side at London 2012 having beaten all three of the other European nations.
After placing fourth at the last two Paralympics, Britain’s 2012 medal hopes were dashed by Japan in their last group game on Friday. But coach Tom O’Connor said Britain’s young and recently rebuilt team had achieved as much as could be expected as they look towards Rio.
“I think what we've got to realise is there are two divisions,” he said. “One with the States, Canada, Australia and Japan, and if you look at the other it's all four European teams, so we've got to bridge that gap.
“It's relatively small in this country compared with the States and other nations. But I think what we've just done has put it on the map. I can see it growing.
“I’m not sure I'm happy with where we finished, but I'm certainly happier after today,” he added. “We're outside the medals and that was our target, so we'll just sit through the last day and watch.”
Aaron Phipps was Britain’s top scorer again with 34 goals, taking his tournament total to 163.
"Well, it's the best of a bad situation,” said Phipps. “We were absolutely gutted when we realised we weren't going to be facing a medal. But we came back and we're kings of Europe now. But we still need pushing up another level and we'll come back bigger and stronger.”
Sweden, ranked world no. 4, were fifth at their only previous Games in Sydney 12 years ago. But they took to the court without their top scorer Per-Johan Uhlmann who was suspended for committing a second flagrant foul in their play-off match with France.
In his absence, Sweden adopted the long-ball game, utilising their danger man Stefan Jansson while Brown controlled the early attacking plays for Britain with the experienced Barrow executing valuable blocks.
Phipps entered the court after four minutes and immediately raised the tempo as Britain established a three-goal lead before ending the period 13-11 to the good.
Phipps extended the lead in the second period wth a dash and grab onto a Morrison long-ball to score just inside the post. And he put Britain four up with another swerve into the corner. A Ross Morrison steal opened the court for Phipps to add another to GB’s advantage and they closed the half leading 27-22.
David Anthony, the blue-Mohicanned Welshman, came on in the second half as Phipps continued to inspire. Clever blocking by his teammates allowed the former wheelchair racer from Southampton to weave between the Swedish defence time after time.
Britain led 42-36 at the end of the third quarter and tightened their grip in the fourth. Successive Phipps turnovers had the crowd chanting “GB, GB” in the last few minutes as the Britons cruised over the line for a 12-goal victory.
Phipps looked drained at the end, but he had given everything and dominated the game.
“I was cream-crackered at one point,” he said. “I've given this tournament my all, and I was very tired. But I just pushed it away till the end and I was pleased with how I played.
“Rio are really going to have to pull something out of the bag to beat this. Even playing for fifth place at quarter-past-nine at night, the crowd was bonkers. The British crowd really had got us through this.”
The team’s captain, Steve Brown, was jubilant afterwards.
"It's a great team and we really gave the crowd something to shout about,” said the Kent Crusader. “The Paralympics has been really good for the team, it puts us on the stage and there's nothing more satisfying than winning.
“It was also good for the sport, to give it more exposure. All we wanted to do was come out and give it our best and give something back to all the people who have made sacrifices for us and put us where we are.”