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20 September 2015

Great Britain wins first IWRF European title in eight years

GB Celebrates their European Championship victory - photo by Lauri Jaakkola

By Lauri Jaakkola


Great Britain defeated Sweden in a thrilling final of the Wheelchair Rugby European Championship in Pajulahti, Finland. The Gold medal match was extremely even till the very end, and even though Sweden led the match most of the time, the Brits managed to turn it around to win, 49–48. 


– We believed in ourselves till the last second. We managed the clock very well, told Paul Shaw, a head coach of Great Britain.


Swedish star Tobias Sandberg hit hard GB’s Ayaz Bhuta in the final quarter causing a valuable turnover for Sweden.


Great Britain showed character coming up after that as Jim Roberts interrupted Sandberg’s pass during the last minute of the match to win it for the Brits.


– Mentally we are extremely strong, Shaw said.


The final match wasn’t anything like the group stage match between these teams, which GB won by a 16 goal margin.


– They changed their tactics to the final and we had to adapt to that, Shaw explained.


Great Britain got what they came for from Pajulahti. They qualified for Rio Paralympics and won their first European title in eight years. All together this was fifth European title for the Brits. They are now one title ahead of Sweden.


– For Rio we have to step up to the next level again. We must be faster, stronger and more tacticaly aware, Shaw told.


European teams have yet to win a single medal from Paralympic Games or World Championships in wheelchair rugby. – It would be nice to change that history, Shaw said.


Mixed feelings for bronze medal winning Danes


The Danish team had mixed feelings after beating Germany 56–48 in bronze match of the Wheelchair Rugby European Championship. A medal is always a medal, but Denmark could still feel the shivers of that bitter defeat to Sweden on Friday.


– Our goal was to qualify for Rio so of course we are disappointed right now, said Torben Nygaard, Danish head coach.


The top two teams of the IWRF European Championship got tickets to 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In the 2014 World Championship the Danes were the second best European team after Great Britain, but this time their Nordic neighbours Sweden got ahead with the smallest of margins, after the second overtime in Friday’s semifinal.


– I think we lost that match on tactical level and as a coach I have to take responsibility for that. But even though we lost, that doesn’t mean we are not a good team, Nygaard said.


– After that huge disappointment yesterday, we were still able to pull ourselves up and performed well against the Germans. We knew they would give us hard time, because for them the bronze medals would have been huge achievement, he continued. 


Nygaard said that Danish team have to get some rest first after the Euros, but soon they’ll start preparing themselves towards the last qualification tournament for RIo in spring.


– We still have a goal to go to Rio, this is just a bump on the road, Nygaard told.


Thomas Moylan voted for the MVP of the tournament


Ireland’s 17-year-old Thomas Moylan was voted for the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby European Championship by the participating teams.


Moylan scored incredible 202 goals in five matches and helped Ireland to sixth place, their best achievement all time.


Ireland, who were promoted from B division to A division this spring, also avoided relegation back to the lower division.

Ireland lost their final match against France who finished fifth in the European Championship. Home team Finland finally got their first win of the tournament after beating Belgium in a crossover match for the seventh place. Both Finland and Belgium were relegated to B Division.


2015 European Championship All Tournament Team

0.5 - Johnny Coggan GBR
1.0 - Stefan Jansson SWE
1.5 - Thomas Schuwje GER
2.0 - Andrew Leonhardt GER
2.5 - Tomas Hjert SWE
3.0 - James Roberts GBR
3.5 - Tobias Sandberg SWE
MVP - Thomas Moylan IRL


Further information: www.wrec2015.fi/en