McHugh plays devil in volley title defence

Murray Wenzel / AAP News


The Australian Men’s beach volleyball duo has progressed to the gold medal match at Birmingham 2022.


Chris McHugh wasn’t a popular man in Birmingham as Australia put Rwanda’s Commonwealth Games dream on ice to qualify for the men’s volleyball gold medal game.

The Australian veteran, partnering fresh-faced Paul Burnett, will gun for back-to-back titles on Sunday against Canada.

It’s a rematch of sorts as Sam Schachter is one half of the team McHugh and Damien Schumann beat on the Gold Coast four years ago.

McHugh, 32, admitted they got a “bit tight” as Venuste Gatsinzi and Olivier Ntagengwa took Rwanda level at 17-17 in the first set in front of a crowd yearning for the fairytale result.

But a trio of McHugh blocks and a flat-lined Burnett serve pushed them clear to ease the tension, the Australians comfortable in the second set to win 21-18 21-14.

The pair weren’t fussed by their 10 faults, Burnett’s fastest serve of 84km/h almost 30km/h faster than Rwanda’s and a risk they deem worth taking.

Bronze for Rwanda would be their first Games me dal, their shock run to the final four the feel-good story of the pulsing, downtown Birmingham venue.

“Sometimes you’ve got to be the devil, I guess,” McHugh told reporters of their tricky task.

“Everyone loves the underdog story and they’ve played amazingly well this week; I hope they win the bronze, it’d be a really great thing for Rwanda and volleyball in Africa and the Commonwealth.”

McHugh partnered Schumann on the Gold Coast, the pair whipping up a frenzy at Coolangatta to win gold on the sport’s Games debut four years ago.

“I haven’t really thought about it that much, honestly. This week I’ve just been trying to get the ball over the net,” he said on the prospect of back-to-back titles.

“It’d be pretty cool to be the only Commonwealth champion … I was honoured to win that (2018 title) with Damo and now Paul’s just starting, mine’s coming to the back end, to add something like that, that’d be amazing.”

Daniel Dearing and Schachte r beat England’s Spanish-born twins Joaquin and Javier Bello 15-21 21-13 15-17 in the other semi-final.

It denied a rowdy home crowd their other great wish on Saturday, England now standing in the way of historic Rwandan bronze at a venue dubbed the Bellodrome.

Australia’s women will be there too, Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar beating Vanuatu later on Saturday night to reach the gold medal game.

They survived a marathon first set to win 26-24 21-16 and will face Canadian pair Sarah Paven and Melissa Humana-Paredes.



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