Canterbury Hellfire, the club’s Wheelchair rugby team, capped off an incredible season with a runner up finish in the national shield The best teams in Division Two plus the bottom two in Division One faced off in the final tournament of the season. The Shield would provide an early litmus test for next season. The national GB coach Paul Shaw sat on the sidelines. He offered some extra help and looked at potential future stars for Tokyo. Brian Pitchford was the only new injury.
Canterbury opened up with a tough match against Division One Crusaders. The winning team would win bragging rights for the future. Some Canterbury players train with the Crusaders for extra sessions. Dave Goddard and Mick o Hanlon also have played for Canterbury in the past. Hellfire were brilliant in the first half, playing their patented aggressive man to man defence to perfection. Crusaders couldn't handle the tempo of Hellfire attacking game either. A Canterbury attack that didn't end in a goal was a rarity and, went into the second half leading by five . Justin Frishberg came on for Steve Palmer revolutionising Crusaders game. They started clawing the lead back as Frishberg has a safe pair of hands as was able to stop Hellfire moving up court easily. Yet, Canterbury showed how they learnt from their recent defeat in Germany as they held steadfast for a 42-41 triumph. The Hellfire boys won a personal battle, as they proved they could handle division one competition.
Hellfire triumphed 59-49 over a Gloucester team who had joined up for this tournament with West Country Hawks due to a lack of players. Gloucester and Canterbury battled hard for the first quarter. However, Hellfire pounced on the lack of chemistry between the Gloucester high pointers. And Hellfire pulled away in the second thanks to Ollie Mangion. His supreme pace and power was no match for Gloucester's defence. He also took some hard hits during the game, putting his body on the line so the team could score. The second unit were effective and continued building the lead. A relieved Canterbury clung on 42-41, halting a stunning collapse against West Coast Burn. They started bright, looking for revenge (Burn were the only team to beat Canterbury in the regular season). Hellfire played with a composure not seen on the pitch this season. They passed the ball without effort to score when needed. Opposing star player Josh Wheeler was completely marked out of the game by Harry Langley and David Barber. No tactics Burn applied allowed them to threaten the lead. In the end Canterbury's biggest threat was themselves. Canterbury with 5.53 left in the final quarter was 6 goals up and looked on their way to victory. Yet, rugby is never over until the final whistle, goals are scored in seconds. Canterbury's attack stalled. Poor inbounds, dropped passes were aplenty. Burn took the impetus and brought the score to within two. 15 seconds left. Another errant pass went astray and Burn scored again. The Canterbury fans went quiet, the bench went tense. The only thing needed was safe inbound with 8 seconds to go. Steve Brown came down low on the court received the ball and held on to it for dear life. And Canterbury scraped out another 42-41 win.
Canterbury petered out against the North East Bulls in the National Shield final. They succumbed to a 41-54 loss. The Bulls darted out of the blocks starting at a rapid tempo. And Canterbury met them at every turn, push. It was a cagey affair as the two cancelled each other out in the first quarter. Defensively North East was a well oiled unit, collapsing on Shield MVP Steve Brown. Then, marking the space around Ollie Mangion. Canterbury was the exact same collapsing well on the opposing high pointer. Luck allowed Bulls to finish the half 28- 24. Balls continually bounced the right way for North East. Barber and Brown kept getting close to interceptions, but the ball bounced towards sidelines and opposing players instead. Canterbury looked well placed to push the match to the final whistle. When concentration was needed to be at a high level, the four unfortunately lapsed. North East opened up the quarter with a 5-0 run. This gap was enough to subdue Canterbury and frustration was clear on all faces. The coach tried to make changes in the fourth quarter but the Bulls were too strong
All in all it was a great weekend Canterbury played with a new maturity throughout the weekend. Players Player Harry Langley and Coach's Player David Barber added to their individual trophy cases by picking up best 0.5 and best 1.5 in class respectively. Steve Brown won overall MVP for the National Shield too. Canterbury finish an incredible season with the Division Two title and two runners up finishes in the cups. And only three losses during the whole season
|11||Bury St Edmunds||30||64|
|12||London Irish Wild Geese||30||56|
|W||22 Apr||Bury St. Edmunds||14-13|
|L||25 Feb||Bishop's Stortford||30-46|
|W||11 Feb||London Irish WG||21-17|
|L||4 Feb||Taunton Titans||5-30|
|D||21 Jan||Bishop's Stortford||0-0|
|L||17 Dec||Old Elthamians||14-18|
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