Time Runs Out on USA – Japan Edges at Tri Nations Wheelchair Rugby on Day 3

May 12, 2017

Time Runs Out on USA – Japan Edges at Tri Nations Wheelchair Rugby on Day 3


Photo: Mandy Goff, Lakeshore Foundation

Doug Coil

There is still one more opportunity on Saturday to see the Finals of the Tri Nations Wheelchair Rugby Invitational as the USA faces Canada at 2pm CT. The winner will then play Japan at 5pm CT for the championship.

The Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama has hosted the 2017 Tri Nations Invitational May 10-13, with the USA, Canada and Japan participating. The teams entered the invitational ranked by the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) 2, 4 and 3, respectively. Games for the entire tournament have been streamed on the Lakeshore Foundation Facebook page.

In years where the Paralympics or World’s are not being held, there are fewer competitions. This tournament provides a competition prior to teams going to Tokyo  for the Japan Para Wheelchair Rugby Championship May 25th-28th.  The USA and Canada then will go to the Americas Zonals in Paraguay September 3-10, where they will attempt to qualify for the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation World’s.

On May 10th. the invitational began with Japan defeating Canada 59-37, the USA beating Canada 64-36 and in the last game of the day, the USA defeated Japan 54-51. For a recap of day one, click here.

On May 11th, the USA defeated Canada 63-45 and lost to Japan 48-47. Japan beat Canada. Both the USA and Japan are 3-1 in round robin play, while Canada is seeking its first win. For a recap of day two, click here.

On May 12th, Japan defeated the USA 55-54 and then Canada 55-36. The USA completed the evening game with a 58-36 win over Canada. This set up tomorrow’s finals with the USA playing Canada at 2pm CT and the winner playing Japan in the Final at 5pm CT.

James Gumbert

James Gumbert, Head Coach of the USA Wheelchair Rugby National team, shared his thoughts about the team and the tournament with DJCoil Rugby. They appear after the day three recap below.

May 12 Games

USA v Japan

The winner of this match will secure first place in the Tri Nations round robin phase of the invitational, while the loser will face Canada tomorrow for the right to meet the first place team in the Finals.

The games have been heavily contested between the USA and Japan with the USA winning 55-51 on day one and Japan winning 48-47 on day two.

After the first quarter, Japan held a 13-12 lead and led 27-26 at halftime. The defense on both sides tried to block the other side from attacking, and passes to an attacker in space created scoring opportunities. The USA and Japan were tied at 20 all, when a long pass by the USA resulted in a turnover. That was a key moment, as Japan had the last possession before halftime and was able to break a tie.

Japan has brought a veteran side to the Tri Nations Invitational with only one new athlete. All other athletes have a minimum of four years experience with the team, including one player with 20 years. The USA has three new players on the squad, and three others with 2 or 3 years experience. The remaining athletes range from 4-8 years of national team experience.

Just like during the first half, several line changes continue to be employed during each quarter. Japan jumped out to a two point lead early in the third quarter, but a USA score and then a turnover by Japan led to another tie at 34 all. An errant USA inbound pass allowed Japan to take the lead, but with less than 30 seconds remaining in the period, Japan also had an in bound pass go out of bounds. The USA took advantage to tie the score at 40 all at the end of the third quarter. Japan had one last in bound pass that went long and was intercepted by the USA to close the period.

The USA struck first in the fourth period and then Chuck Aoki intercepted a pass and this led to the USA taking a 42-40 lead. An aggressive defensive tip by Japan led to USA turnover which allowed Japan to even the score. The USA then created a turnover to take a 47-46 lead. Each team went back and forth with the USA trying to keep the ball in Chuck Aoki’s hands, while Japan’s Daisuke Ikezati was prominently involved in play. Japan scored in the closing moments and then defended well as Chuck Aoki executed a tip pass to Lee Fredette and the time clock expired before he crossed the line.

The final score of the game was 55-54 in favor of Japan. Win the win, Japan’s record improves to 4-1, while the USA has lost two consecutive one point matches to Japan after an earlier three point victory. With a win against Canada, Japan will have a 5-1 record and gain a first seed bye for Saturday’s Finals. The USA will be the number two seed and will need to play an extra game against Canada tomorrow, with the winner advancing to the final against Japan.

Japan v Canada

Canada entered the Invitational with six new national team athletes, while the other four were veteran athletes, two having 4 years experience and the other two with 8 and 16 years national team experience. Although Canada is ranked 4th in the world, this is a side that is trying to build for Canada’s future and is basically a developmental side. Japan on the other hand, has almost the same team that came in third place at the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil.

Japan entered the match against Canada knowing that with a win it would be in tomorrow’s Finals. With this in mind, Japan took a 17-9 lead after quarter one and extended the lead to 30-16 at halftime. After the third quarter the score was 44-26 and the final score was 55-36.

USA v Canada

The USA had to be disappointed after losing in the closing seconds to Japan by a point. With Japan’s win over Canada in the afternoon, the USA will face Canada tomorrow in a play in match at 2pm CT for the right to meet Japan in the Final. The three matches between the USA and Japan were decided by a total of five points with the USA holding a a plus one point differential.

The USA has beaten Canada twice in the Invitational, 64-36 and 63-45. They will end round robin play with this match and then play Canada again tomorrow.

James Gumbert opted to begin the match with a second line of Josh Wheeler, Jeff Butler, Alejandro Pabon and Clayton Brackett, to give them increased playing time and to see how they would respond to the challenge. This created an even match with the USA taking a 8-7 lead, before changing lines for a 13-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.

For the start of the second quarter, the USA went back to their initial starters and then made a few individual changes to extend their lead 27-20 at halftime. The defense tightened down the stretch and this lead to counterattacks and taking control of the match. Clayton Brackett was a key player in this period. The first line had some limited minutes at the end, just like during the first period, but it was the second line that should be credited.

During the third period the initial starting line played the bulk of the minutes with some limited playing time at the end from the first line. The USa extended the lead at the end of the third quarter to 45-29. The USA closed out the match with a 58-36 win.

Limiting the minutes of players playing extending minutes proved to be effective. They still played to remain sharp, but were able to conserve some of their energy for tomorrow.Look for this strategy to continue tomorrow.

Many players gained valuable playing time today, and this should be valuable in Japan and in preparation for the Americas Zonals in September.

There were many athletes that contributed to the win tonight. They showed that they can be very effective when they enter the court.

Canada should also be commended for their resolve and improvement in each game in the tournament. They faced a formidable task playing against two very experienced sides and this should reap many long term rewards.

The Lakeshore Foundation has run an excellent tournament and should be commended for their athlete support. I wish more people would take the opportunity to view wheelchair rugby. Wheelchair is an excellent sport and and other national organizations like USA Rugby recognize this and seek to mutually support each other. I hope that others will take the time to see a game and they will be also then be believers.

May 13

The USA will play Canada at 2pm CT, while the winner will play Japan in the Final at 5pm CT for the Championship

The games will be streamed on the Lakeshore Foundation Facebook page.

USA Wheelchair Rugby Head Coach James Gumbert Tournament Comments

I spoke with James Gumbert today after the USA’s game against Japan and will paraphase his comments.

He briefly commented on both Japan bringing a veteran side to the Tri Nations Invitational at Lakeshore Foundation and on Canada bringing a developmental side.

In discussing Canada’s squad, he indicated after a Paralympic year some veteran’s move on to other endeavors, while others need a break from the competition. Canada has traditionally been ranked in the top 3 spots, and with them currently being ranked 4th, this is “an unfamiliar position.”

The USA is currently ranked second in the world, yet lost five players from the 2016 Paralympic team. The team still has a veteran presence, but players are stepping up as leaders. Both Joe Delagrave and Ernie Chun (2.0s) have elevated their level of play. At the 2.5 classification, Alejandro Pabon and Clayton Brackett have been in the player pool before, but have stepped up to become difference makers when paired with veterans Josh Wheeler and Jeff Butler on a line.

Lee Fredette, a 1.0 classification who almost forced an extra time game today, is playing in his third major competition. He played in the Canada Cup last Summer and then was part of the Paralympic squad in Rio before being selected for the Tri Nations Invitational. He has really performed well in Chad Cohn’s absence as a starter due to injury.

Chuck Aoki widely known as the leading player for the USA. Aoki wants to be the driving force behind the team. He is a warrior, leader and a great person. Chuck Melton, the oldest member of the team at 38, is a person who is respected and whose is a leader both on and off the court. He leads by example and is a athlete that others gravitate to for feedback.

The United States Quad Rugby Association just had Club Nationals. New players Talbot Kennedy, Joe Jackson and Tim Vixay have emerged from the club level and were selected to the USA National team for this tournament.

While the USA goal is to win every game, this can not be at the expense of developing players, as an athlete can be only one play from being sidelined. The Tri Nations Invitational has provided many teaching moments, where new players are inserted into lines to see how they perform and that applies to more experienced players developing into leaders. Both Talbot Kennedy and Joe Jackson have performed well when inserted. Tim Vixay showed promise in a  0.5 classification, but was reclassified as a 1.0 and will face an increased challenge at that level.

Leadership also applies to coaching. In the day one match against Canada, Sue Tucker served as the Head Coach, while James Gumbert acted as her assistant.

I want to thank James Gumbert for taking the time between games to discuss the team prior to finishing the Tri Nations tomorrow. Next for the USA National team is a trip to Tokyo for the Japan Para Wheelchair Rugby Championship on May 25-28 before concluding their season at the Americas Zonals in Paraguay, September 3-10. The Americas Zonals also serve as the regional qualifier for World’s.

Tomorrow, the USA will need to beat Canada in the 2pm CT game. The winner will then face Japan with the Tri Nations Invitational Championship at stake as well as world rankings by the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation. The USA is currently ranked second, Japan third and Canada fourth in the world.

Schedule & Results

  • May 10: Japan 59-37 Canada
  • May 10: USA 64-36 Canada
  • May 10: USA 54-51 Japan
  • May 11: Canada 45-63 USA
  • May 11: Japan 48-47 USA
  • May 11: Japan 58-41 Canada
  • May 12: Japan 55-54 USA
  • May 12: Japan 55-36 Canada
  • May 12: USA 58-36 Canada
  • May 13: USA v Canada 2pm CT
  • May 13: Japan v winner of USA v Canada 5pm CT

Tri Nations Rosters

USA Wheelchair Rugby: Athlete Bios

  • Chuck Aoki, Minneapolis, MN #5 (3.0)
  • Clayton Brackett, Birmingham, AL #21 (2.5)
  • Jeff Butler, Austin, TX #6 (0.5)
  • Ernie Chun, Phoenix, AZ #8 (2.0)
  • Joe Delagrave, Chandler, AZ #14 (2.0)
  • Lee Fredette, East Moriches, NY #11 (1.0)
  • Joe Jackson, Chandler, AZ #3 (1.0)
  • Talbot Kennedy, Atlanta, GA #13 (1.5)
  • Chuck Melton, Richview, IL #2 (2.0)
  • Alejandro Pabon, Arlington, TX #23 (2.5)
  • Tim Vixay, Portland, OR #42 (0.5)
  • Josh Wheeler, San Tan Valley, AZ #10 (2.5)

Canada Wheelchair RugbyAthlete Bios

  • Shayne Smith #25 (2.5)
  • Brenden Troutman #24 (3.5)
  • Michael Whitehead #8 (3.0)
  • Cody Caldwell #9 (2.0)
  • Kristen Cameron #3 (0.5)
  • Patrice Dagenais #12 (1.0)
  • Matt Delby #31 (3.0)
  • Anthony Letourneau #21 (2.0)
  • Yanick Racicot #55 (1.5)
  • Eric Furtado Rodrigues #41 (0.5)

Japan Wheelchair RugbyAthlete Bios

  • Masayuki Haga #4 (2.0)
  • Kazuhiko Kanno #6 (2.0)
  • Daisuke Ikezaki #7 (3.0)
  • Kae Kurahashi #3 (0.5)
  • Hidefumi Wakayama #1 (1.0)
  • Shinichi Shimakawa #13 (3.0)
  • Tomaki Imai #9 (1.0)
  • Kotaro Kishi #15 (0.5)
  • Yukinobu Ike #21 (3.0)
  • Seiya Norimatsu #22 (1.5)
  • Shin Nakazato #11 (2.5)


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North American Rugby News With A USA Slant