Team of the tournament Zions plan their revenge

By Danny Caro, July 30, 2009
Gripping stuff: GB’s Ben Chamberlain is stopped in his tracks in the final match against Australia

Gripping stuff: GB’s Ben Chamberlain is stopped in his tracks in the final match against Australia

It was a case of so near, yet so far for Team GB’s Open rugby squad. Widely regarded as the team of the competition, they were beaten by three points by an Australia side they had comfortably beaten in their first match.

It could all have ended so differently as the gold medal match was determined by inches. GB’s Sam Katz missed a penalty kick that bounced off the posts while the Aussies hit the posts with one of theirs and the ball just bounced inside. But for that, GB would have won.

This from a group of players who were put together 18 months ago. They won many new supporters for their blood, sweat and determination and second place is a vast improvement on the fourth-place finish of 2005.

The boys returned home as heroes in their own right. Co-managed by Jon Tyler and Jonathan Seltzer whose sons featured in the 23-man squad, the group included 16 Maccabiah debutants. As well as conquering Australia, they beat the highly-fancied South Africans and the USA on their way to the final.

Katz was one of the stars of the show, scoring 41 points in four matches.

“Overall, the team were disappointed not to win gold,” reflected Seltzer. “But there is a feeling of satisfaction with a silver medal and we have a target to aim for in 2013.

“A great deal of credit goes to the coaches, Simon Culley and Nick Mortimer, who moulded a disparate bunch of players into a team that, according to the referees, would not look out of place in the National Divisions in England, and also to the physio, Kyla Anderson, who worked tirelessly to keep the squad together. She was so successful that the full squad was available for selection for the final.”

On the playing side the team was well led by tour captain Mark Pettit and playing captain Aaron Liffchak. Seltzer said: “Aaron had an excellent tournament. He led by example and was an inspiration to the team.”

The semi-final win over the USA was arguably the best performance. Seltzer said: “We totally dominated play and the scoreline of 16-3 did not fully emphasise our superiority.”

It was unfortunate that GB made a slow start in the final against Australia. Citing early Australian pressure and a number of errors for Australia’s 13-0 half time lead, Seltzer was pleased by the reaction of his squad during the second half.

Tyler said: “The average age of the squad is only 24. This bodes well for the next Games as the squad intend to meet regularly.

“We feel that we represented Team GB with maturity and professionalism and a major part of our success was the incredible team spirit, organisation, attitude and support of the whole squad.

“We are determined to go back and wrest the gold off the Aussies in four years time.”

Last updated: 12:32pm, July 30 2009