Hong Kong Review by BCRN 7s Correspondent
by BCRN 7s correspondent
posted April 10 2017
Pool: Canada, South Africa, Kenya & France
The famous Hong Kong Sevens got underway Friday and Canada started their challenge against the Kenyans.
The Kenyans were once the talked about team on the circuit when they first came onto the scene several years ago but in recent years they have fallen from grace somewhat with inconsistent results and lackluster performances.
And while they do have some speed they have never engaged totally in the intense physicality that some teams bring to the table and often their handling skills have let them down under this pressure.
Obviously for Canada there was plenty at stake and plenty to play for as the African county is just four points behind in the Series Standings and the motivation to keep the point spread that way must have been high.
And often the more that is at stake the tighter the game and this was the case on Friday night in the National Stadium.
Regardless – Canada played well enough to move onto Day 2 with a clean sheet – two errors cost us two tries but on attack we were ruthless with McCloskey showing some finishing pace and Harry Jones anticipating a beautifully placed grubber kick by Hirayama which sat up perfectly for him in the in-goal area.
The Hammond-Hirayama half-back combination is developing with skill and precise execution as many thought it would – with Hammond at scrum-half and Hirayama out wider Canada look much more dynamic and dangerous especially from the scrums.
Hammond is lightning-quick with his distribution and Hirayama’s vision to direct Canada’s attack just becomes that much better.
As expected Nathan Hirayama went into the history books in Game 7 and put on a skills clinic in doing so – it was magical and it left the Kenyans bewildered right until the end of full time which overlapped by some two minutes as Hirayama slotted a penalty kick to win the game.
Tight game, good start and excellent result!
Canada 17 v Kenya 14
Obviously Canada’s second game was a key one going into the second day in Hong Kong as aspirations of a quarter-final was on the line.
And once again Nathan Hirayama’s abundant skills and vision were on display – he scored once and added on four conversions as Canada rolled past France in determined fashion.
Douglas added a pair and John Moonlight showed why he is a top forward on the circuit by adding another try to his collection.
And once again the coach moved his line up around effectively and inclusively – what a breath of fresh air this guy is which is in stark contrast to this time last year when even the least experienced fans were left wondering what the hell was going on pitch-side and if anyone other than the seven starters would see the pitch!
Everyone played and pity the French as they had little if any time to catch their collective breath before Canada hit them with another impact sub.
A disagreement between the bad tempered Alexander Lagarde and Hirayama did nothing to spoil the contest even when both were shown ‘yellow’ – clearly the difference was Hirayama was going to the quarter-finals with his team and Lagarde was heading to the nearest wine bar! Added to the French misery was the fact that Hammond came into the fray and showed some serious UFC moves to remove a French player straight onto his derrier –a clear three point takedown!
Kaay came on in determined fashion as did Morra, Mullins and Bradley – and each in turn ensured that this game was out of reach – quarter-finals here we come!
Canada 28 v France 14
Reality checks are always good as a team progresses and when selecting the pool assignments this year Canada seem to have had their fair share of the circuit’s top team.
Whether by choice forced upon him or by design the coach started a different line-up against South Africa – but from this vantage point if it was by design it made perfect tactical sense.
And the score at the half reflected that the coach had made some sensible decisions.
The game despite the run of play was in the balance and it took some time for an upper-hand to show itself – the circuits’ top team has many weapons at their disposal and recovering your poise after they strike is often very difficult indeed when the game begins to turn and slip from your grasp.
The TV narrator remarked at one point that Canada was ‘out-rucked’ in this game – not sure that was the entire story unless the French sent a case of wine to his commentators booth as a peace offering after the previous game and the TV lads got started early!
Canada stood firm in this game but South Africa are on top of the standings for a reason and in our last pool game of the day we found out why – regardless Canada is off to the quarter-finals AGAIN and see Fiji on Day 3 in Hong Kong.
Well done to the coaches and the players!
Canada 7 v South Africa 26
By half-time Canada had established them self bit more in this quarter-final game after giving up an early try to Fiji.
But Hong Kong has always been a special place for the Fiji Team and finishing poorly does not sit well with their many adoring fans or their team.
The second half was a struggle and getting the ball back a frustrating task as the massive Fijian Team woke up, took more care of their possession and got into their ‘run-support-offload game.’
It’s always great to watch as a fan in the stands but not so much on the field.
Add to that is the frustration that players have when they can’t get the ball and show what they are capable of – and in the second phase everything seemed to go Fiji’s way and they walked away into the semi-finals.
Canada 12 v Fiji 29
This game will frustrate staff and players alike for sometime as it was ours for the taking and just when we thought it was in the books the South Americans made a desperate last second chip kick over our heads to touch down – they do it all the time with great effectiveness and probably we should have been more ready to defend it but we weren’t and Argentina squeaked out a win.
It was probably most frustrating as we had the upper hand in this game and it was a cruel outcome.
Despite the frustration Canada will head to Singapore tomorrow with more points in the Tournament Standings as we move into 9th place over all.
Better still is the fact that we are improving as a group and that has to be pleasing to everyone – especially the coach.
Hammond and Hirayama have developed into a potent combination; Douglas is staying healthy and scoring some great tries; Jones and Moonlight are both in sensational form now especially on attack; new comer Isaac Kaay has another tournament of experience under his belt and is pushing hard for a starting position which should make Mike Fauilefau up his game a notch or two and McCloskey, Mullins, Morra, Douglas and Bradley are making significant contributions when called upon – especially McCloskey and Jared Douglas.
And let’s not forget that Nate Hirayama set down an amazing marker and some history in Hong Kong this year in front of his family, his team-mates and the world – well done Nate!
Canada 19 v Argentina 20
Singapore pool: Fiji, Russia and Hong Kong – lots of promise in this one for sure.
Stay tuned – Singapore is next!
Canada Team – Hong Kong
Luke Bradley (University of Victoria) Port Alberni, BC
Tevaughn Campbell (Saskatchewan Roughriders) Scarborough, ON
Jared Douglas (Abbotsford RFC) Abbotsford, BC
Justin Douglas (Abbotsford RFC) Abbotsford, BC
Mike Fuailefau (Castaway-Wanderers) Victoria, BC
Lucas Hammond (University of Victoria) Toronto, ON
Nathan Hirayama (University of Victoria) Richmond, BC
Harry Jones (Capilano RFC) Vancouver, BC
Isaac Kaay (University of Victoria) Kamloops, BC
Luke McCloskey (Castaway-Wanderers) Victoria, BC
John Moonlight Captain (James Bay AA) Pickering, ON
Josiah Morra (Toronto Saracens) Toronto, ON
Matt Mullins (Queen’s University) Belleville, ON
Head Coach Damian McGrath
Assistant Coach Lee Douglas
Physiotherapist Danielle Mah
Analyst Calum Ramsay
Manager Brian Hunter