RICHMOND, B.C. Team Australia shook off some early cobwebs to build a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter and went on to defeat Team Japan 63-58 in their opening match Friday at the Canada Cup International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament.
Australia, the defending Paralympic gold medalists and 2014 world champions, held a slim 46-45 lead after three quarters. With 6:31 left in the final quarter, Ryley Batt picked up a loose ball and streaked down the court for a point that gave the Aussies a 49-46 lead. That allowed them to control the pace for the rest of the match.
“It was a bit of a weird game for us,” said Batt. “We were all a little bit flat. I think we are still very much recovering from the jet lag.
“It wasn’t really the high-intensity game we usually play against them. We played a control game. We have a lot more of that.”
The win will help stoke Australia’s confidence. Japan is ranked third in the world, one ahead of the Aussies.
“Japan is a tough team,” said Batt. “They have a lot of function and a lot of control. I knew it was going to be a close game.
“To beat Japan by five points is huge for us. They have been on top of us the last couple of months.”
Australia faces another tough test Friday when they play the U.S. who are ranked No. 2 in the world.
“We have to step it up against the U.S.,” said Batt. “It’s going to be a tough game.”
The tournament is being held at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Of the seven teams participating, only Switzerland will not be competing at this summer’s Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.