Day Four Review
Denmark made history on home soil by qualifying for its first Paralympic Games with a 53-49 victory against France in the semi-finals of the 2019 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby European Championship in Vejle, Denmark, on Saturday.
Another huge Danish crowd attended to cheer their team over the line and set up a date with Great Britain in the gold medal match on Sunday.
Denmark led by six tries at half-time, before France rallied late in the third quarter and early in the final term to cut the margin to one. France still had three 30-second timeouts at their disposal, but Denmark swung the momentum back in their favour and forced France to use them all. From there, the hosts held their nerve to record a famous victory.
- I can't describe how happy I am. I'm more than happy. It's crazy. That's the biggest thing I've been a player for, said Denmark’s Sebastian Frederiksen, who finished with 32 tries.
He was quick to praise the Danish public, who, in Vejle, have taken on parasport and wheelchair rugby like never before.
- It is an incredible experience to play in front of such an audience. You feel, you fly. Although I was incredibly tired in the end, they gave me the strength to keep going.
French coach Olivier Cusin said Denmark deserved the win.
- The game was incredible, Denmark was up by six points and we came back to one (try) with three timeouts, which we thought was good for us, he said.
- The new players played a very good game, but the lack of experience at the end forced us to use the timeouts, so we lost three balls and it was over. Honestly, Denmark played very well; they were aggressive in defence and good in attack, so they deserved the victory today.
Great Britain gave itself a shot at a seventh European Championship gold medal after taking down Sweden 53-34 in the other semi-final. Sweden had spent a lot of energy just to get to this point in the tournament and it showed as Great Britain won every quarter to capture a comfortable win.
On the other hand, Great Britain star high-pointer Jim Roberts hasn’t been required to play huge minutes as they head into the decider full of confidence.
- I think they’re (Sweden) coming off a bit of bad luck with injuries before coming into this tournament, so I know they are probably a little bit stronger than they’ve shown today. We never underestimate them, Roberts said.
- It’s nice to check Tokyo off the list and that’s probably going to be my last games and last time playing rugby. We’ve worked really hard the last couple of years, getting people up to speed. I’ve got total faith in every line up we’ve got at the moment.
Germany and the Netherlands maintained their position in Europe’s Division A with victory in the crossover games earlier in the day. The Germans survived some early pressure from Switzerland to win 53-41.
- We made it too easy for Switzerland in the beginning and made bad mistakes, but after half-time it got better, Germany’s Florian Bongard said.
- We had a bad start against France, so fifth place is a must have. We will win tomorrow no matter who we will face.
Swiss star David Mzee was disappointed with the way the game unfolded, but was blown away by the crowd support.
- I had tears in my eyes, not because we lost but because the fans were so good. It really touched me, Mzee said.
- It felt like we were playing at home, so we really have to play hard even if it’s not for us but for the fans.
The Netherlands claimed their first triumph of the tournament, producing an excellent four-quarter effort to beat Poland 52-46 and relegate them to the seventh-eighth playoff.
- It’s amazing, it’s really good, we had a good game plan against them and we knew exactly what they wanted to do, Dutch captain Reda Haouam said.
- We also knew it was going to be tough and they would give us a run for our money in the first half. We knew we couldn’t let up the pressure until the fourth quarter and we managed to keep focussed and execute our game plan, I’m very happy we are staying in Division A.
Poland’s Łukasz Rękawiecki knows there can only be one winner.
- We knew the team from the Netherlands and we knew the main aim for this game was staying in Division A, so it was very important. Today the Netherlands were better physically and just on the court and that’s why they won, he said.
- We’re falling down to Division B, but maybe that is a lesson for us, maybe it will be good for us, maybe we will change something.