Canada's wheelchair rugby team dominates Colombia, Brazil at Paralympic qualifier

CBC

Canada's wheelchair rugby team claimed dominant victories over Colombia and Brazil in its preliminary round matches at the IWRF Paralympic qualification tournament in Richmond, B.C. on Thursday.

The Canadians began the day by blowing out the Colombians 62-35 before taking care of business against Brazil with a 58-36 victory.

In the first game, Jhon Orozco Nuñez of Colombia used his speed to get around Canadian defenceman Trevor Hirschfield for one of the first scores of the game, but Canada quickly responded by grabbing a 7-5 lead with less than five minutes to go in the first quarter.

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WATCH | Colombia vs. Canada - Wheelchair Rugby Paralympic Games Qualifier:

Colombia's Carlos Neme cut into the Canadian lead after securing a pass and spinning around Fabien Lavoie for a try, but Zak Madell led the charge as Canada extended its lead to four points entering the second quarter.

Defenceman Cody Caldwell of Canada scored a try in the second to extend his team's lead to seven points, and the Canadians took control from there.

Lavoie went in untouched to make it a 24-14 game with just over three minutes to play in the half, and he added more points by powering past Neme to help put Canada up 29-17. Mike Whitehead scored to give Canada a 31-17 lead at halftime.

Shayne Smith, Anthony Létourneau and Travis Murao scored for Canada down the stretch to secure the win.

Later, Brazil challenged Canada early before the home team took over in the second quarter, eventually opening up a 31-19 lead at halftime.

WATCH | Brazil vs. Canada - Wheelchair Rugby Paralympic Games Qualifier:

The second half proved more of the same, as the Canadians continued building their lead against their overmatched opponents.

Caldwell and Smith combined to take over in the fourth quarter, with the former providing a strong defensive presence in the middle of the court while the latter scored 10 points in the final five minutes of the win.

Canada has been the higher ranked team in each of its three matches — all victories — thus far at the B.C. tournament.

Canada kicked off the tournament with a hard-fought 53-38 win over Switzerland in their opening match of the preliminary round on Wednesday. The team next faces Sweden on Friday at 3 p.m. ET before taking on Germany at 9 p.m. ET.

WATCH | Switzerland vs. Canada - Wheelchair Rugby Paralympic Games Qualifier:

Initially set up as a two-pool format involving eight teams, it became a seven-team round robin after Thailand withdrew over health concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland remain in the competition along with the Canadians. The top four teams after the preliminary round will play off in two semifinal matches to decide the final two spots in the wheelchair rugby competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Canada is currently ranked fifth overall in the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation rankings, the highest among all teams in the tournament.

CBC Sports has a free live stream of all of Canada's matches at the 2020 wheelchair rugby Paralympic Games qualifier from Richmond, B.C. Watch all the action here.

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