Great Britain are champions of Europe
GBWR are European champions for a seventh time after withstanding a huge challenge from Denmark to win 55-45 in the gold medal match of the IWRF Wheelchair Rugby European Championship in Vejle, Denmark on Sunday.
The now three-time defending champions led by two tries at the main break and seized control in the second half after the home side was forced to use all its 30-second timeouts early in the contest. Despite a gallant effort from Denmark, the home side was unable to match the sustained pressure of Great Britain, led by their starting line-up of Jim Roberts, Jamie Stead, Gavin Walker and Jonathan Coggan.
High-pointer Stuart Robinson was also used to great effect and was delighted to take the title in his first European championship with the team.
- It’s an amazing feeling to come away with gold after all the hard work we’ve put in the last few months, Robinson said.
- We’re quite a close-knit team and the amount of hard work we’ve all put in has paid off.
Great Britain were comfortable 63-45 winners over Denmark in the final pool match on Friday, but it was a strong response from the home side in the final.
- We knew we’d be facing a completely different Denmark, they came out all guns blazing and it was up to us to with stand it and let our class show through at the end, Robinson added.
- We had so many objectives when we came here, obviously to win the tournament and also get qualification for next year, it was quite a high priority and we’ve come away doing that. The thing that we’ve learnt is that we trust each other, no matter what line up is on and we have complete trust and faith in it so that we know we are going to perform well.
Denmark’s Kristian Bak Eriksen admitted it was tough but said the side proved it could play up to the level of Great Britain.
- I'm a bit annoyed that we couldn't hang on for a bit longer, he said.
- But it was an incredibly cool feeling playing here, and I wish we could have rewarded the audience with a win.
France came away with the bronze medal in a thrilling 45-43 triumph against Sweden in overtime.
A brilliant long pass from Swedish star Tomas Hjert found Rickard Loefgren with seconds to spare to level the scores in regulation, but two costly fouls in extra time saw France escape with victory.
- It was incredible for the bronze medal match and when it went into overtime, it make it a very intense game, said French captain Jonathan Hivernat.
- It was very different, France is very physical and Sweden is very technical and to put these against each other, it was an amazing game.
Considering the tough preparation Sweden had, Hjert was pleased with the way Sweden played.
- We grew into the tournament, we played better and better each game and that’s something we had to bring with us into this tournament, he said.
- Right now we are mostly disappointed and we’ve missed out on a medal for the first time (since 2003), but it is what it is.
Germany secured fifth place with a comprehensive 69-44 result against the Netherlands in their final playoff game. The German side will take plenty of positives from the tournament after narrowly missing the semi-finals following a narrow loss to Sweden on day two.
Switzerland finished the tournament on a high and ensured all eight nations scored at least one win after defeating Poland 46-43 in the seventh-eighth playoff. The match was entertaining from a spectator’s perspective with plenty of momentum shifts and turnovers forced by both sides, but the Swiss side finished strongly.
IWRF president Richard Allcroft labelled it the best European Championship yet.
- The competitions have been fantastic, the venue and the hotel has worked perfectly and the organising committee have done a fantastic job together with strong, genuine partners, who made this a success, Allcroft said.
- The Municipality of Vejle are so dedicated about parasport and have been dressing the city in wheelchair rugby, and the competitions have been fantastic with an amazing crowd for almost every game.
- We have seen some great games – and a couple of little shocks.
- Many would have expected Great Britain and France in the final. Yesterday’s game (the semi-final) was in many ways the final, particularly for Denmark, for the first time qualifying to a Paralympics in wheelchair rugby, which must be huge for the team.
- I hope that we will see a legacy after Tokyo. Also the Netherlands, a team that have been developed over the last four or five years, they have performed very well.
- They won Division B last year and have succeeded their goal here to stay in Division A.
Event Director Torben Nygaard could not have hoped for much more.
- The teams have played amazing rugby and the atmosphere in and around the tournament has been great, Nygaard said.
- I’m thrilled with the way Vejle has embraced wheelchair rugby and I truly believe that these inspirational athletes will have made a lasting impression on everyone here.
- We, along with our many incredible partners, will certainly look back on this week with equal pride in our work and admiration for the sport.
Parasport Denmark President John Petersson echoed those sentiments and paid tribute to all involved in making the event possible.
- Hosting the IWRF Wheelchair Rugby European Championship has been a great experience for Parasport Denmark, Petersson said.
- Together with our great partners, the municipality of Vejle and Sport Event Denmark, and with support from the IWRF, we have done everything in our power make this event the best championship to date and to clearly demonstrate our passion for the sport of wheelchair rugby.
Allcroft is hopeful of bringing wheelchair rugby back to the city of Vejle in the not too distant future.