Japan beat hosts France 50-49 to win the International Wheelchair Rugby Cup (IWRC) bronze medal after an exciting game at the Accor Arena in Bercy, Paris.
The teams exchanged early tries to end the first quarter tied at 13-13 and the intensity continued in the second quarter with France captain Jonathan Hivernat throwing a perfect long pass from his own half to find Sébastien Verdin on the try line to score.
By half-time the teams had shared 50 points and by the end of the third quarter still the teams could not be separated with the score locked at 37-37.
That third quarter produced one of the best tries of the bronze-medal match. Japan's Shinichi Shimakawa passed long to Ryuji Kusaba, who was soon surrounded by three French players but managed to pass to Seiya Normatsu, who crossed the line.
France went 43-37 up in the final quarter after Hivernat intercepted the ball and threw a superbly timed lob pass to Matieu Thiriet who scored.
Heading into the final five minutes France led by three tries and the hosts, backed by a vocal home support, defended their lead in the closing stages until Japan's resilience paid off when they drew level once more with a minute to go.
Japan delivered a thrilling finale when, with 40 seconds remaining, Yukinobu Ike intercepted the ball and scored to secure third place, having missed out on the final after losing to Australia. Both teams will compete in the Paralympics in Paris 2024.
"The game was one we could have lost, but today's victory is a result of our belief in our ability to win and our determination to keep fighting until the very last second," said Japan captain Ike.
France's Adrien Chalmin lamented the painful end to the match.
He said: "You can’t relax or you get punished in this sport. The Japanese team put us under pressure. They adapted their game in the last four minutes and forced us into defending like never before. We had a hard time. We will review that and come back stronger.”
The IWRC, which is run by World Wheelchair Rugby, took place for the first time in full partnership with World Rugby, Rugby World Cup, host organisers France 2023 and the Fédération Francaise Handisport. Eight nations competed in this year's event.
Australia beat Canada 53-48 in the final later on Sunday to become International Wheelchair Rugby Cup 2023 champions.