Canada makes history with third place Las Vegas Sevens finish

rugby canada

by Bryan Kelly

January 26, 2014, LAS VEGAS, Nevada (ISN) –  Canada claimed their best ever finish in World Series history as they overcame Samoa 22-19 to take third spot at the Las Vegas Sevens tournament on Sunday. After having bowed out of the Cup to New Zealand in a closely fought 7-26 semi-final, Canada recovered from 0-19 down to beat the Samoans in an epic clash.

The result means Canada pick up 17 IRB World Series points, which is a massive boost to their 2013/14 season ahead of travelling to Wellington on February 7-8.

GAME ONE – Canada 7-26 New Zealand
Line-up: 2 Connor Braid, 3 Nanyak Dala, 4 John Moonlight, 5 Conor Trainor, 7 Phil Mack, 8 Justin Douglas, 11 Harry Jones

Canada gave the All Blacks Sevens a huge scare in their Cup semi-final as they pushed Gordon Tietjens’ side all the way in an evenly-matched fixture on Sunday. New Zealand had come into the game as heavy favourites having never lost to Canada, but Geraint John’s outfit soon sent shockwaves through the stadium when they took an early lead. The try came after a rampaging surge from John Moonlight that was finished off well by Phil Mack, who converted his own score to make it 7-0.

Canada clearly oozed belief they could reach the Cup final and pre-game doubters were suddenly on the edge of their seats as the first-half wore on in Las Vegas. New Zealand aren’t Series holders for nothing though and when Scott Curry found a hole on the right touchline that saw him go in under the uprights, it was a tied game as the half neared its end. Unfortunately, the Kiwis would move ahead before the interval as sloppy line-out work allowed Bryce Heem to collect and ground.

The second-half saw Canada come out of the blocks with intent once more as they rocked New Zealand onto the back foot through the power and pace of Moonlight. However, tired legs were then capitalized on by the clinical All Blacks side as Tim Mikkelson’s converted try down the right touchline pushed his side 7-19 in front.

With time ticking on and New Zealand knowing they had the clock on their side, Canada would still not lie down as their travelling supporters cheered them on. But ultimately it would be the All Blacks who progressed to the final as Heem went over for his second try, sending Canada into a third-place match against Samoa.

John Moonlight

Following the loss a clearly disappointed Moonlight was stoic about events but acknowledged the team took away some valuable insights from the encounter. “You learn at the top level you can’t make any mistakes or they capitalize on it. So we’ve just got to clean up our game for next weekend (in New Zealand) ,” he said.

Despite not booking a spot in the final, there is still a chance for a best ever third place finish, with Samoa standing in the way. “For sure we want to do some recovery now and get ready for this game in a couple of hours.” said Moonlight.

DJ Forbes – Captain of New Zealand

“We’ve always known they are a side capable of making a Cup Final or semi-final and good for them,” said Forbes. “They are a good side. “Any team that is playing against us in a Pool game or the finals lifts their spirits to another level, especially them being here (so close to Canada) every team is going to chuck everything at us.”

GAME TWO – Canada 22-19 Samoa
Line-up: 2 Connor Braid, 3 Nanyak Dala, 4 John Moonlight, 5 Conor Trainor, 7 Phil Mack, 8 Justin Douglas, 11 Harry Jones

Canada secured their best ever finish in World Series history as they came from 0-19 down to beat Samoa in a breathtaking recovery at the Sam Boyd Stadium. As they had done in many of their games over the weekend, Canada trailed their opponents in the opening stages as Fomai Ah Ki scored twice for his side in the first and third minute. Reupena Levasa converted Ah Ki’s first so it was 0-12 to Samoa.

It was going to take another special response from John’s charges, even more so when Reupena Levasa went over 14 seconds into the second-half to make it 0-19.  But with rousing support cheering them on, Canada got the ball rolling a minute later when good work from Connor Braid led to Conor Trainor going over. Mack added the conversion, which made it 7-19 with five and a half minutes still to play.

Canada were now riding on emotion as the momentum was certainly with them, with the lead further reduced when Moonlight was adjudged to have dotted down the ball on the line before Dala made sure in the aftermath to make it 12-19. And with just over a minute remaining, Canada amazingly completed a dramatic comeback to level the contest thanks to a smart finish in the left corner from the outstanding Mack, who agonizingly struck the upright with his attempted conversion.

It didn’t matter as Canada’s red wave of dominance continued until the end, with a penalty offence against Samoa leading to Mack going for a drop-goal shot that he successfully knocked over to secure third place and 17 IRB World Series points.

Canada’s Men’s Las Vegas Sevens
January 24-26

Day One
Canada 17-15 Kenya
Canada 0-29 South Africa
Day Two
Canada 21-19 Wales
Canada 17-14 France
Day Three
Canada 7-26 New Zealand
Canada 22-19 Samoa

Canada’s Roster for Las Vegas – (Club, CRC Team) Hometown, Province
Connor Braid – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Nanyak Dala – (Castaway Wanderers RFC/Prairie Wolf Pack) Saskatoon, SK
Justin Douglas – (Abbotsford RFC) Abbotsford, BC
Sean Ferguson – (UBC Thunderbird/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Harry Jones – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) North Vancouver, BC
Phil Mack – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Duncan Maguire – (St. Albert Rugby Club/Prairie Wolf Pack) St. Albert, AB
John Moonlight – (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Pickering, ON
Mike Scholz – (Castaway Wanderers RFC/Ontario Blues) Oakville, ON
Conor Trainor – (UBCOB Ravens/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Sean White – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Jordan Wilson-Ross – (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Alliston, ON
Players Unavailable due to injury:
Sean Duke – (UVic Vikes/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Mike Fuailefau – (Castaway Wanderers RFC/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Lucas Hammond – (Toronto Nomads/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Ciaran Hearn – (Castaway Wanderers RFC/The Rock) Conception Bay South, NL
Nathan Hirayama – (UVic Vikes/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Adam Kleeberger – (Castaway Wanderers RFC/BC Bears) White Rock, BC
Pat Parfrey – (Swilers RFC/The Rock) St. Johns, NL
Senior Men’s Team Staff:
Geraint John – Head Coach
Kieran Crowley – Assistant Coach
Danielle Mah – Physiotherapist
Lorna Barry – Strength and Conditioning Coach
Calum Ramsay – Performance Analyst
Brian Hunter – Manager
Canada’s Men’s Sevens Program is proudly sponsored by Macquarie Financial, Sport Canada and Own the Podium.