Thursday at the GIO 2018 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championship brought the top four teams back onto the court each battling to earn their spot in Friday’s gold medal final. Finishing at the top of Pool B, the U.S. squared off against Japan.
The game pace was littered with quick scores and while the action was tight throughout the opening minutes, an over and back called on Aoki with 30 seconds left in the first quarter found Japan a two try lead, 12-14. A reaching foul on Wheeler in the opening moments of the second turned the ball back over to Japan, extending their lead to three. Japan again scored at the buzzer to close the second quarter, going into half time with a five try lead, 23-28.
Japan had the possession arrow to open the third and would again capitalize to go up by six. The U.S. employed strong and patient play to try and etch away at the Japanese lead. Needing to score quickly on each possession the Americans also worked to speed the game pace back up. A small break with 51 seconds left in the quarter came as the U.S. denied the Japanese in the key and went on to score, shrinking the U.S. deficit to five, now down 35-40.
The final quarter opened with a quick try from Aoki to bring the score within four. A spin called on Japan at 6.26 gave the ball back to the Eagles and kept the momentum shifting toward the U.S. Despite a strong team effort from the Americans, it wouldn’t prove to be enough as the Japanese maintained their lead and finished with the win, 46-51.
Tonight’s result moves the U.S. into the bronze medal game, scheduled for 10:45 p.m. CST on Thursday, August 9th. The livestream of that game can be seen here. The win tonight for Japan will take them to their first World Championship final.