Player-coach Jamie Stead congratulated his Leicester Tigers Wheelchair Rugby colleagues on “an amazing job” as they enjoyed European tournament success in Poland.
Tigers accepted an invitation from the Polish Wheelchair Rugby Federation to compete in the International Wheelchair Rugby 5s alongside teams from around Europe and domestic rivals Northampton Saints who they eventually beat in the Final.
Team GB international and Paralympic gold medallist Stead led a group of 10 players as they came through two tough days of competition to take the silverware after a one-point win in a tense all-English Final.
“A massive thank-you to all the players for their commitment and fight,” Stead said afterwards.
“I couldn’t have asked for any more. Everyone improved every game and executed every game plan.
“Thanks also to the support staff who helped out and did an amazing job."
After Tigers had beaten Saints 26-18 in the group stages on the opening day, the teams met again in the Final and the rematch was a much closer encounter with Stead having adapt his side’s tactics to take the game into a sudden-death shoot-out before finally coming through to take the trophy.
Continuing his strong form in defence throughout the tournament, David Wilkinson led the resistance and Tom Folwell proved the key man as Tigers had the bulk of possession during extra-time to come home as 25-24 winners.
Tigers had begun the two-day the tournament with a 28-26 win over IKS Jezozcy Mikolow, coming from behind to get off to a winning start, and then beat 4K Jokers Bydgoszcz 29-19.
Jokers have been playing together regularly for several seasons, but Tigers had a healthy seven-point lead by half-time and closed out the game for a second victory with Taylor Gough’s accurate passing being particularly important alongside the work of Richard Copson and Dan Harvey, and Laurence Ball’s strong defensive work.
Tigers then topped their local rivals in a first meeting with Saints, recording an impressive 26-18 victory against a team who are the defending Premiership WR5s champions.
Darren Bragg played a central role in the gameplan, with strong support from Vicky Bloor Ross, who has transferred her handling skills from basketball, alongside Wilkinson and Folwell, and two good scores from Copson.
Tigers finished Day One with wins in all three games while Stead had also been able to manage gametime throughout the group and see improvement in each game, then started Day Two with a 30-15 win over Jokers in the semi-final to book their place in the all-English Final against their great rivals.
“It’s an amazing team but even more an amazing group of people,” said Stead. “We made history and some great memories.”
Leicester Tigers Wheelchair Rugby squad (International Wheelchair 5s, Gliwice, Poland): 2 Darren Bragg, 4 Vicki Bloor Ross, 7 Richard Copson, 8 Dan Harvey, 9 Tom Folwell, 10 Laurence Ball, 11 Taylor Gough, 12 Jamie Stead, 14 Jack Coulson, 22 Dave Wilkinson.
Staff: Jamie Stead (player/coach), Sam Johnston, Marcus Ross, Joel Bragg, Giles Ball.