USA Sevens 2017 Wrapup

March 06 2017

BCRN 7s Correspondent Reviews the Performance at Vegas Plus Shares Some Thoughts on Men's XVs

posted March 6 2017
by BCRN 7s correspondent

Pool: South Africa, Wales, Canada and France

Long before John Moonlight ran onto the pitch at Sam Boyd Stadium for his 50th World Rugby Sevens appearance he had surpassed that mark for Canada already and in fact his tally now stands at 58 caps entering the South Africa game in Las Vegas – this includes (quite rightly) RWC Sevens, Commonwealth Games, Pan-Am Games and Rugby World Cup Qualifiers.

Before Canada departed for Las Vegas the coach heaped praises on the Pickering man for his unselfish contributions to his teammates and to his country – it was well deserved.

Also noteworthy is that Harry Jones continues as Captain of the team in Las Vegas Jones and will have reached the exact 50 cap mark when he returns to home-base in Vancouver.

Frankly it was a sensible decision by the coach to relieve Moonlight of a burden which has been heavy on him for some time. It was time to let John Moonlight ‘just play’ and not worry about outside pressures surrounding the team and the union which often found him uncomfortably between the two forces.

As well - not far behind Moonlight is super star Nathan Hirayama whose ‘cap-count’ now has reached an amazing 55 appearances after debuting in Dubai in 2006. This total also includes RWC’s, CWG, PAG and Qualifiers.

These accomplishments should not be lost amidst all the union dysfunction and in fact celebrated thoroughly as the players head north to Vancouver and a home-soil appearance at BC Place Stadium.

Comparisons with other prolific sports in Canada such as ice hockey are most likely meaningless since rugby sevens is unlike any other game Canadians participate in - but these are significant markers just the same and they will stand up forever in the rugby record books and they need to be acknowledged.

Well done to these amazing players!

Day 1

This game against South Africa was always going to be a challenge for Canada. Any advantage we could have had might be directly related to the arduous flight plan the Springbok had coming from the southern African continent as there is no escaping the distance they must endure into the Nevada desert city.

Canada started well but after the jet-lag cleared from the South African’s collective heads it was a predetermined result unfortunately – good moments in a game are just that but you have to end up with more good moments than your opponents - and Canada did not accomplish that today.

Canada 7 v South Africa 27

We started very well against Wales until Pat Kay took a yellow card and the game changed immediately. Hirayama always looked world-class and dangerous but the yellow card changes things quickly and Canada’s game was not as convincing.

Regardless we scored just before half-time and things seemed on the upswing with both Hirayama and Jones taking charge.

Another yellow card in the second half which was badly adjudicated helped Wales recover and then when Fuailefau was badly exposed one-on-one it was Hirayama who started the comeback - and what a comeback it was - a sensational pass by Isaac Kaay after backing up the play very well sent Fuailefau over the line to make up for his previous mistake.

It was all Canada needed and we recovered Day 1 with still a hope of progressing to the Cup Round.

Canada 24 v Wales 21

(Day 1 Over-time) – any good news from the casino city on Day 1 was ruined by the test match result which hit cyber space immediately from San Paulo where our XV’s men fell to hosts Brazil.

The outrage at home spread like a prairie wild fire across the dry plains as fans and supporters expressed their outrage and disappointment.

In quick fashion we all began to point fingers in every direction – at the players, at the coach and anywhere our frustration would take us.

But let’s be clear right from the get-go – if anyone thinks that our guys weren’t ‘laying it down hard’ in Brazil then think again…

The blame does not belong to our players – it belongs clearly on the Board, the dysfunctional office top brass from off-shore and the continual hiring of foreign staffers which have no connection to Canada or to our assets.
Pink slips should be issued ASAP and put an end to all this immense dysfunction.

The Board members who approved this hiring screw-up should step away immediately and drop a million dollars each for leading us down this dreadful trail which has more potholes in it than there are out in the Sooke Provincial Park – in fact they are sinkholes now!

This is an appalling situation - the board and their senior clones should be ashamed from top to bottom!

Day 2

The common phrase around the circuit, the media booth and in general continues to be “Which French side will turn up in any given game.”
Today that was obvious – the French hung around until we scored and then went to the wine bar almost immediately. Nathan Hirayma had seen it all many times before over the years as he directed traffic which saw Mike Fuailefau score first and then after HT Isaac Kaay scored making a significant impact coming off the bench. Douglas scored an easy one after a precise cross kick. It was just enough to give us a berth in the quarters and some valuable points.

Canada now plays Fiji in the Cup quarter-finals.

Canada 21 v France 0

Canada has had some good fortune against Fiji over the years – but not a lot. Despite this our 14 - 12 win at Hong Kong in 2004 was historic and the players on the field at the time will still recall that night in the national stadium. Fast forward to Las Vegas in 2017 and things were clearly not the same as they were in 2004. Fiji jumped into a lead and despite Canada responding the ball was never really ours to manipulate conditions or outcomes. Still Canada gained some valuable points and the realization that next weekend they will be on home soil in completely different conditions.
England is next at Sam Boyd Stadium and then a short trip northward above Inter State -5 and into home territory.

Canada 12 v Fiji 31

Day 3

England has not really changed their approach to the short game in many years and maybe the consequence of that fact is why they have not dominated the series for some time.

Certainly they have their moments each season but it’s usually in their favourite locations like Dubai or Hong Kong where there is abundant fan support.

The exception this year was of course in Cape Town where they got past the host nation.

But that said - they lie second in the Series presently so their determination for success this season should not be underestimated.

Canada lost the kick-off and after a suspect decision England had a long series of possession and re-cycling which ended up in a try.

Once again the restart did not go well for Canada and then a clear obstruction by England at the scrum and the English ran in their second try - poor refereeing.

Hammond who should be playing more came onto the field at half time as Hirayama retired and made an instant impact as did his university teammate Isaac Kaay.

After a wild off-load from out-wide which was debated in the telecast booth as a possible knock-on everyone froze on the field except the fast thinking Lucas Hammond and Harry Jones but with no pending whistle Hammond moved the ball away to Jones for a try.

But in the end it was still a case of too many giveaways and some suspect tackling by a couple of regulars that impacted the outcome – for their tackling alone Kaay and certainly Hammond should be in the starting mix.

That said there are more positives to report than negatives and this team is only a couple of decisions away from a semi-final or final - keep it up boys!

Vancouver is next – stay tuned Canada!

Canada 5 v England 12

Canada Team – Las Vegas

Phil Berna UBC Thunderbirds Vancouver, BC
Luke Bradley University of Victoria Port Alberni, BC
Justin Douglas Abbotsford RFC Abbotsford, BC
Mike Fuailefau Castaway Wanderers Victoria, BC
Lucas Hammond University of Victoria Toronto Ontario
Nathan Hirayama University of Victoria Richmond, BC
Harry Jones Capilano RFC North Vancouver, BC
Caleb Jordan Montreal Wanderers Montreal, QC
Isaac Kaay  University of Victoria Kamloops, BC
Pat Kay University of Victoria Cobble Hill, BC
Luke McCloskey Castaway Wanderers Victoria, BC
John Moonlight James Bay AA Pickering, ON
Adam Zaruba Capilano RFC Vancouver, BC

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