Team Canada’s wheelchair rugby team cracked the win column in Tokyo after an all-around performance from start to finish.
The Canucks coasted to a victory over New Zealand 51-36, wrapping up round-robin action and securing their spot in Saturday’s classification 5-6 match.
The haka was not the only thing New Zealand did well, though. They did put up a solid effort, earning them high praise from Canada’s coach, Patrick Côté.
“New Zealand showed up ready for the game. I was very impressed by their high, low (play). Probably gave us a little more resistance than expected at the beginning, but all in all, we stuck to the plan and we outperformed them,” he said.
Canada outperformed New Zealand in every statistical category, with their best coming in the steal department. The red and white had a tournament-high 10 steals, giving them the +9 advantage and ultimately leading to a clean, mistake-free contest.
After two straight games of 31 tries, Zak Madell added 12 in this contest to lead the team but did not see the court in the second half. Without him on the court, forwards Shayne Smith and Fabien Lavoie contributed with six tries each in their first taste of action in Tokyo.
This match had much more of an American Football game flow to it than their past contests. There were a lot of long passes by both the Canadians and New Zealanders, as well as multiple major collisions. Most notable was Zak Madell’s in the first quarter that even had the announcers enthusiastic.
Canada’s next matchup with fifth place on the line will be against a very formidable foe — France. Les Bleu was remarkably unlucky in their three-round robin matches, losing by no more than two points in all three.
Considering both teams played their opponents exceptionally close, the fifth and final match is something Canada’s coach Côté looks forward to.
“France had a very solid tournament in the other pool. They gave Japan, Australia, and Denmark great games,” he said. “It is always a tough battle against France. We’re really looking forward to it…It could not have been closer on the other side.”
Game time is set for 7 a.m. EST Saturday at Yoyogi National Stadium in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.