Review of Canada 7s from BCRN 7s Correspondent
Canada left the Nevada desert on Monday and headed north into Vancouver where they will meet the USA, Australia and Uruguay on the weekend in Pool A at BC Place Stadium.
Canada is now 11th in the HSBC Sevens Standings with 35 points after five tournaments.
The three hour and fourteen minute flight north may not be enough time for our Team to clear out the discouragement from their last game Sunday afternoon in Sam Boyd Stadium against the French.
And with all the attention our team has been getting at the Vancouver tournament in the last two years there will be the inevitable questions that have to be fronted about the result in the last game in Vegas with the French.
Good or bad it has to be done and then preparations for the weekend begin in earnest.
On the bright side of things – the welcome home to Vancouver in the last two years has been nothing short of sensational and Canadians are well known for their ability to smother our national teams with praise and attention particularly when they have been underdogs – this past week was no exception and the fans have gone a long way to healing up the wounds from last Sunday.
For the coaching staff it’s a slightly different matter as the result especially against France reflects poorly on everyone – there is no hiding it. We had an extra man on the field for most of the match and could not put France away – it’s unacceptable.
Nonetheless the week in Vancouver with all the attention, recovery and practice sessions gave everyone an opportunity to refocus and prepare for Saturday at BC Place Stadium. Attention is a wonderful cure and expect our boys to be ready come kick off.
As well the team named late in the week included Matt Mullins and Lucas Hammond – both back from injury. This is outstanding news for Canada and should improve their accuracy considerably in this pool on Day 1.
Both players have proved vital in Canada‘s success in the past when we have been going well. Mullins size, speed and physicality will be needed against the one dimensional Americans and tenacious Australians - and while the very talented Lucas Hammond has had an injury plagued season thus far this year he is the successor to Phil Mack in his own right and allows the magical Nathan Hirayama more room and space to execute Canada’s game.
Canada started their home challenge in great form you’d have to say – you all saw it hopefully, live or on TV, as it was as exciting as it possibly could be against the forth ranked team on the HSBC circuit. We had our tails up and the crowd once again this year urged Canada on for the entire match.
Little things in sevens are not usually that little and from this desk the game hinged on two ill timed off loads by Canada and a strike against the head which turned the ball back over to Australia on their goal line. Apart from that this game was ours to take back into the changing shed after fourteen minutes. Either way for the paying customer you would have to say you got your monies worth – and there was more to come later in the day! It was good to see Lucas Hammond back in the game and his entrance changed everything significantly when he came onto the turf at BC Place Stadium. Should he have started – from this desk - absolutely yes - but maybe the coach who is at field level knows better? Nathan Hirayama once again put on a clinic which was world class and sets the young man from Richmond, BC in a category all by himself without question – friends and former team mates were already ‘Tweeting’ him early in the day as he approached a landmark achievement by over-taking Wasali Serevi in the all-time stats. For those of you in BC Place Stadium taking it in LIVE – remember what you witnessed today – Nathan Hirayama plays rugby like Connor McDavid plays hockey and that is very special indeed. Or it may be that Connor McDavid plays hockey like Nathan Hirayama plays rugby!
Canada 19 v Australia 19 (11:42 PDT)
Canada started strong again and got the packed stadium crowd into the game immediately! We had ‘our narrow game’ going and for many precious minutes we kept the ball away from the USA game breakers. If you want to attack the USA team it seems that a support game down the edges works very well and Canada were doing what was required. The game did change when despite protests Nathan Hirayama was sent to the concussion protocol area. Once again (from this desk anyway) Hammond came on too late and immediately impacted the game – his electric quickness at the base allows Canada to “snipe” at the edges of the rucks and become a threat which allows the spaces out wide to develop more readily. Nevertheless – we missed a easy kick to touch in the final stages after some really top notch approaches to the USA goal –line - and if anything the Yanks know a good thing when they see it and went the distance of the field to score. Unfortunate – yes it sure was as this game was in the balance and a tie might have served everyone an equal part of the glory. Uruguay is next.
Canada 21 v USA 28
Compared to the previous two games on Day 1 Canada started slowly and the lack of immediate possession cost them valuable time on the clock when they needed opportunities to score. A 19- 5 half-time score was not that encouraging despite the efforts on the field – and frankly this Uruguay team are as close to a recycling bin as possible! Douglas finally broke but lost confidence in his top end speed and after several phases Canada completed the deal but valuable time had elapsed. Once more Hirayama came to the rescue and started Canada to a recovery on the score board – he was magical (again!). Now it’s wait and see between the USA and Australia.
Sadly Canada move into the Trophy Round on Day 2 against Scotland in the morning.
Canada 47 v Uruguay 5
A couple of Report Cards from Day 1
Referees: v Australia - C minus; v USA – D; v Uruguay – C+
3 Stars (because it was Hockey Night in Canada!): Moonlight; Hirayama; Jones
Any zero on a score sheet in sevens (and particularly on the HSBC circuit) looks bad – no question about it and on Sunday morning it looked very bad indeed for Canada. Scotland had not had a good opening day in Vancouver but their luck changed dramatically on Sunday morning when they shut out the home team in frustrating fashion. Nothing went right and in fact all the issues that had plagued us from progressing in previous tournaments were on full display – terribly frustrating for the players, coaches and the fans.
Canada 0 v Scotland 19
Fast on the heels of a devastating loss to Scotland – Canada eventually found their mojo against France and ran up the score. But sadly the damage had been done earlier in the day against Scotland. It did however give the faithful fans a lift at BC Place Stadium. Unlike Scotland who clearly had a plan against Canada – France did not have any visible plan whatsoever and in the end only the wine bar in Yaletown was waiting for them after this game! Tonight Canada will kick themselves at opportunities left wanting at their home tournament and there will be a boat load of frustration – but before all that Canada has a final date with Samoa.
Canada 31 – France 19
Canada finished their Vancouver Sevens series with a uncomfortable loss to Samoa. Isaac Kaay got our intentions started with a fabulous run down the middle of the pitch – Mullins missed the touchdown but after the 5 meter scrum Captain Harry Jones completed the deal with a nice try. Kaay continued his high tempo game especially in the first half and all the hard work eventually lead to a Moonlight try. Samoa scored right at the half-time horn to close the gap and start the doubt. A dropped kick-off turned possession over to Samoa after the half and they used it wisely to overtake Canada on the score sheet. Our defence went from ok to dismal in a heartbeat – Kay charged with a high tackle and Samoa came right at us again. Then to add to the confusion another in the series of mysterious penalty calls was made when all match long the ball at the back of the ruck was deemed “out” then suddenly it was not and John Moonlight was called for a penalty – quite ridiculous in every way! But it has to be said – we don’t play team defense very well at the moment – too many missed assignments and we just don’t look like we understand each other when the time comes to tackle and defend. It’s clear and obvious that some players are far more committed to the tackle skills than others and that has to change if we want to become more consistent and more forward in the Series.
Canada 15 v Samoa 21
Conclusion: Despite another first class tournament in Vancouver the rugby brass will still have to return to their office desks on Monday morning where there are no roses waiting anyone and things remain as dysfunctional as they were last Friday.
All the hype and deserved enthusiasm for our sevens team were dashed away this past weekend after a sub-par performance against Scotland on Day 2.
Rugby followers will realize that the effort on Day 1 was outstanding and despite the result against the Americans Canada deserved their praise and applause.
But no matter what – results count in the international arena – that’s all that matters in the end and leaving the stadium with nothing of consequence to show for all that determination will be a very hard pill to digest – especially for our senior guys.
You have to feel badly for our team – more than anyone else in the stadium they will realize the opportunities that went begging in their home port.
The look on the faces of our boys at pauses during the games told it all as each guy displayed the determination and the anguish of every contest.
Clearly the Vancouver Sevens is the biggest event on the calendar for the national union and it is suspected that monies derived from the two day tournament go a long way to assisting Canada survive it’s appetite for over spending and over staffing big salaries.
An “invitation-only’ meeting of rugby types on Friday night at a pub in West Vancouver will not solve any of these outstanding issues for obvious reasons – those not invited will be grieved at the snub and unless plain talk and copious notes were taken by the CEO then very little will transpire.
It seems obvious that the main guy should now make several appointments with the stakeholders who dwell on the playing surfaces of our game and not the board rooms or high rise office towers looking down from above.
If you are the CEO – you cannot know what’s going on in the trenches unless you spend the right amount of time there AND speak to the right folks.
Formulating the right path for long term sustainable development is not a new logo or some new branding – Canadians are not arrogant to suppose we know everything about rugby football but we do have an acute awareness about who we are and how we fathom our way through our own culture as it pertains to rugby. Foreigners do not.
If the main guy hasn’t got that straight yet then he should turn over the reins to a foot soldier before it is too late.
Finally – congrats to Nate Hirayama for moving up the “All Time Ladder” but in truth if you know the man he would have taken the wins on Saturday and Sunday far more.
Hong Kong is next… YES!
Canada Selection – Vancouver
Harry Jones (C)