Australia taste Wheelchair Rugby success
Ryley Batt was in unstoppable form as Australia beat New Zealand 53-45 in the final of the Asia-Oceania Zone Wheelchair Rugby Championship at the Pioneer Stadium in Christchurch on Sunday.
His immense strength and speed meant the Wheel Blacks had difficulty stopping Batt, who became the youngest ever Wheelchair Rugby Paralympian in 2004 aged just 15, from stamping his authority on the game.
"Even when we put three players on him we could not contain him for long. He was extraordinary," admitted New Zealand coach Greg Mitchell afterwards.
Australia had beaten New Zealand 45-44 in the round robin stages on Friday and come the halfway point of the final the rivals were separated only by two points, the Wheel Blacks taking advantage of Batt spending some time off court.
The fact that Australia had managed to rotate players throughout the week-long Championship, allied with the performance of Batt, allowed Australia to pull away as a tiring Wheel Blacks side began to make errors.
By reaching the final Australia, silver medallists at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and New Zealand have both qualified for the IRWF World Championships in Vancouver next year, along with Japan.
World Championship bound
Japan secured the third qualification berth from the Asia-Oceania region by beating Korea 65-29 in the bronze medal game. South Africa finished fifth after losing all four of their round robin game in Christchurch.
The Asia-Oceania Zone Championship came a week after the first ever Americas Zone event, at which Argentina edged Brazil 46-43 to join Olympic champions USA and bronze medallists Canada in the 2010 World Championship.
Six European sides had already come through their own qualifier in Denmark, where Belgium beat Sweden 49-46 in the final. Germany, Great Britain, Poland and Finland are the other four sides now bound for the World Championship in Canada.
Wheelchair Rugby is a fast-growing sport now enjoyed in more than 20 nations around the world. It is played indoors on a basketball court and a match consists of four quarters of eight minutes with four players on court at any one time.
Each player is classified in one of seven classes between 0.5 and 3.5 points depending on their functional ability and no team can field a quartet of players with more than eight points on the court at any one time.
The object of the game is to cross the opposing team's goal line with both wheels and in control of the ball, which is the same size and shape of a volleyball. The ball can be carried on the lap, but must be passed or bounced at least once every 10 seconds.