It has become a bit of a cliché but it is a fact that at the highest level of sport today winning and losing is almost always down to the smallest of margins. As Australia and Ireland awake today having lost in the Rugby World Cup to England and New Zealand respectively they will not be thinking this because unusually both were soundly defeated in the quarter finals, but for us that cliché is true. We lost in our semi-final game v the USA but by the tiniest of margins. The game was played like a game of chess with both teams cautious of one another and trading try for try. After a hesitant start where GB took a time out in the first minute of the game we settled and played a very steady quarter which left us one try down at 14-13 at end of Q1. Q2 was much the same and there was still one try difference at half time with GB on 26 and USA 27. Q3 was a good one for us and we were briefly up by two points as we capitalised on some USA errors and also forced some turnovers. The USA quickly recovered some of these but we still went into Q4 up for the first time in the game and still looking very composed and very comfortable. With about 5 minutes remaining the momentum changed. The USA made some errors but recovered quickly and then went ahead. They held the ball well and it felt as if we were being suffocated as they showed their experience in running down a game. It felt as if we had to do something to wrestle back the initiative but regrettably in doing so a penalty was committed – so easy to do when you play on the edge. It gave the USA the opportunity to run down the clock, take their last time out, and score the winning try to end the game 49-48. To be fair to our USA friends, it was a masterclass in how to close down a game. It is also a bit of a cliché to say we are pretty devastated as it was a very big game for us and were we on the cusp of our first ever significant final. But there is still a bronze medal for the taking and we now must regroup, refocus and believe in ourselves. In a year’s time with a Paralympic medal around our necks this loss will be seen as an important milestone along that journey, we now need to show our resilience, our courage and our belief as we go into the bronze medal game and play the hosts Japan for the second time in this tournament.
The other semi-final, between Australia and Japan was equally close – try for try again. Going into the final quarter it was 40-40 but was to end 57-56 to Australia. Japan will feel crushed not to have won the game which would have put them in a major final in front of their home fans. They will I am sure come out strong today and not want to end what has been a real showcase event for them without a medal. It should be an exciting bronze medal game.
In the other remaining games NZ defeated Brazil to take 7th spot, and after double over-time Canada took 5th place from France 61-60.