GB beaten in rugby opener

05 September 2012 / 17:35

Great Britain opened their Paralympic wheelchair rugby campaign with a 56-44 defeat against reigning champions the United States - but captain Steve Brown was far from disconsolate.

Brown's team are widely viewed as strong medal contenders, and they led the reigning Paralympic champions 13-11 after a fierce opening quarter at the Basketball Arena.

Despite a 16-goal display from star performer Aaron Phipps and an 11-goal contribution by the workaholic David Anthony, though, Britain went down by 12 points in their Pool A opener. But France are next up on Thursday night, followed by Japan on Friday, with successive victories certain to secure semi-final status.

A capacity 10,000 crowd, including Mayor of London Boris Johnson, ensured an electric atmosphere for the eagerly-awaited tournament launch of a sport originally known as murderball due to the ferocious collisions between players.

"The States are number one in the world, so it was never going to be easy. We had the bounce of the ball sometimes, and other times it went against us," Brown said.

"But I am so proud to be captain of a team that gave 100% right until the end. That crowd was something else. You have to draw from the crowd and find that extra percentage with your performance, but it is also important to remember they are outside the court and you have to focus on what happens inside the four lines.

"You really go hell for leather, and the crashes are all part of the game. It's tactical. You want to stop the player moving, you want to knock them out of their chairs so you've got a numerical advantage. The game works to involve the hits. It is not just a case of bumper cars with the ball.

"In so many areas we match up with America - our strength, speed and agility. Player for player there is very little difference."

Brown scored the tournament's first goal, and his team rapidly followed the skipper's example during an opening quarter high on energy and endeavour. Britain shaded it by two goals, staying ahead throughout, and America did not go ahead in the match until almost three minutes of the second quarter had elapsed.

The defending champions eased through the gears, opening up a five-goal advantage with the brilliant Chuck Aoki in commanding form, even though goal machine Phipps maintained a prolific strike-rate. America took a 41-32 lead into the final quarter, and that was too big a margin for Britain to have any realistic chance of staging a successful fightback.