Canada savours rugby sevens history
By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
The Canadian seven rugby side flew out of Glasgow on Monday having made history there by reaching the final at an HSBC Sevens World Series stop for the first time.
Next time the Canadian men are in Scotland, Commonwealth Games medals will be on the line.
It was a banner weekend for the Canadians at the Glasgow Sevens. They won their preliminary pool Saturday, defeating Japan and France and tying England. Canada then defeated Kenya 14-5 in the quarter-final and Scotland 10-7 in the semifinal before going down 54-7 at the hands of powerful New Zealand in the final.
The lopsided loss made for a strange "bit of an empty feeling" Sunday that was undeserved, said head coach Geraint John.
"We shouldn't have had that really," he said Monday before heading to London. "Because to get to the final in the (World) Series for the very first time, it's a pretty outstanding achievement by everyone.
"I think today everybody's feeling a little bit better."
Canada will be up in Scotland soon enough, facing familiar foes at the Commonwealth Games, which run July 23 to Aug. 3. It has been put in Pool A with defending champion New Zealand, Scotland and Nigeria.
Poll B consists of South Africa, Kenya, Cook Islands, and Trinidad and Tobago, Pool C features Samoa, Wales, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia while Pool D is made up of England, Australia, Sri Lanka and Uganda.
The top two from each group advance.
The competition will take place before a sellout crowd at Ibrox Stadium, home to Glasgow Rangers soccer club.
New Zealand has never lost at the Games, winning gold every time. The All Blacks are also defending World Series champions and have won four of eight stops on the circuit this season while finishing runner-up twice.
John said Sunday's final was an emotional experience, hearing the Canadian anthem before the game for the first time.
Canadians Phil Mack and John Moonlight were both named to the Glasgow tournament's all-star or Dream Team. Conor Trainor, meanwhile, turned heads with a circus-like try against France when he got his boot to a low pass in mid-flight and managed to tap it into his hands before sprinting over the line.
"All the players are given him a little bit of stick because they think he should have caught the ball anyway," said John.
"It was a remarkable bit of skill," he added.
The Scotland performance moved Canada up one spot to sixth in the overall standings with 82 points going into the tour's final stop this weekend in London. Canada was 12th last season, with 69 points.
Glasgow marked the fifth straight tournament that Canada has qualified for the elite Cup competition and finished in the top eight. Its previous best finish was third at the USA Sevens in January.
The American showing came after a disastrous performance in December in South Africa, where Canada lost five of six matches and finished 14th in the 16-team field.
John called it a turning point.
"it made us all reflect. It made us all really look hard at ourselves. I think it changed the way we approached a lot of our training."
Training became a lot harder.
"We decided that we needed to go up a level and we did."
The sevens team is based in Langford on Vancouver Island, with the depth increasing in recent years so players are really competing for places. The Glasgow performance, for example, came in the absence of the injured Nathan Hirayama, Ciaran Hearn, Nanyak Dala and Chauncey O'Toole.
It's a measure of the team's high expectations that the coaching staff did not review any of the team's wins in Glasgow, just the final loss.
"We were a little bit disappointed we didn't compete as we should have competed in that final," John said. "Sometimes you've got to take one step at a time and we took another big step this weekend."