The club's Wheelchair Rugby side, the Hellfire, established themselves as a force in Europe with a second place finish in a top tournament held in Cologne. This hugely successful European debut, at the Bernd Best Tournuier: Professional League event, follows their promotion to the top tier of Wheelchair Rugby in England this season.
They lost in the final to the one of Denmark's best teams; Aarhus Burnouts. However, this was a stepping stone for Division 1 since Canterbury will play some of the biggest names in the world of wheelchair rugby next season.
First up Canterbury Hellfire had to battle through four pool games over Friday and Saturday. As Canterbury entered Sporthalle Herler Ring Buccheim, a cosmopolitan atmosphere with drums and maracas greeted them. The atmosphere was slightly daunting. Nerves were jangling as Hellfire had to get to grips with the new rules in play for this contest including a smaller court, shorter quarters and no shot clock.
Canterbury opened up the tournament with a dominating 49-17 win over The Scorpions. They quickly settled into a rhythm during their first game against the Dutch team. Mangion started the tournament full of confidence exploiting the Dutch defence with bursts of his supreme pace. It was also an impressive introduction for Mick O'Hanlon (on loan from London WRC for the tournament) he was a brick wall in defence, constantly tipping balls for interceptions.
Hellfire continued their strong play the next morning, outclassing Cologne Alligators 40-22. They built up a 10 - 4 lead in the first quarter and didn't look back. The defence was again rugged forcing Cologne into turnovers. Captain Harry Langley (who played every minute of every game) was at the heart of everything good in the matches. He imperviously blocked, picked and scored when needed throughout this game.
In their next match, Canterbury beat Las Mambas 43-28 for the top spot of Pool F. It was a beautiful game as Canterbury started upping the gears. They started to play consistently the kind of rugby that earned them the division 2 title this season. After the first half it was much the same with Las Mambas rarely threatening. Player/coach Steve Brown produced a composed performance to lead his team to victory and a game for the championship. He combined well with O'Hanlon as they kept assisting each other throughout the game
Hellfire finished the pool unbeaten with an easy 36-17 over Copenhagen Ballcrackers. The most impressive showing was when Canterbury kept Copenhagen from scoring for over half the quarter. It was another outstanding performance for the Kent team as they repelled their opponents again and again. Because of the length of Copenhagen taking to score it was a low scoring game. The only worry happened in the fourth quarter when Barber was driven into a wall viciously. However, he got back up like a champ, and played on bossing his match ups. Therefore he was rewarded with a starting place in the final alongside O'Hanlon who gave the team a different dynamic.
The final was played at the Willy Brandt Arena on Sunday morning, for the first time Canterbury were live streamed and hundreds of fellow rugby fans lined the edges. The opposition Aarhus Burnouts had 3 members of the Danish national team ranked 8th in the world by IWRF.
The Danes took charge in the first quarter chasing Hellfire players over every inch to the court. Under pressure Canterbury attack broke down, consistently struggling to get out of the half and score. Canterbury were also wasteful and gifted the lead to the efficient Danes. This was compounded since Canterbury just couldn't stay attached to Aarhus's powerful high pointers Thomas Jorgenson, Mikkel Schottel and Morten Elmholt. Canterbury reasserted themselves in the second half, bringing on Tim Scott and Ollie Mangion. There were signs that a comeback looked on the cards, the defence was resolute and tight. Scott was influential in closing the deficit denying Danish low pointers of space. However, Aarhus slowed the game down completely in the fourth quarter to confirm Canterbury's second loss of the season 46-55
Coach Steve Brown said after the game "Canterbury has nothing to be disappointed about. In our first European adventure, to finish second out of ten teams is something to be proud of."
|8||Bury St Edmunds||30||77|
|13||London Irish Wild Geese||30||57|
|W||7 Apr||London Irish Wild Geese||43-7|
|L||17 Feb||Bury St. Edmunds||26-46|
|L||10 Feb||Taunton Titans||12-21|
|W||13 Jan||Old Redcliffians||48-29|
|L||23 Dec||Tonbridge Juddians||19-22|
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