Canada Men’s 7’s Champs Phpto Paige Stewart
The pathway to the top of the podium may have had its hurdles, but Canada’s Men’s Sevens Team overcame the odds to complete the host nation’s double-gold performance on the day, winning the 2015 Pan American Games gold medal with three inspirational, come-from-behind victories on Day Two of the competition.
After starting the day with a sudden-death, extra-time 17-12 win over Chile in their quarterfinal, Canada booked their spot in gold medal match by defeating the United States of America in their semifinal, 26-19.
Canada saved their most memorable performance for last, clawing back to defeat Argentina 22-19 in the final on the heels of a last-second try from Harry Jones, ensuring that the host nation received gold medals in front of 20,000 passionate home supporters.
Head Coach Liam Middleton, following the Pan Am Games:
“I think the boys really reflected the Canadian spirit throughout this tournament. They were courageous and tenacious when against the wall. That type of adversity we were in, we were either going to crumble or we were going to catapult ourselves to the top, and we decided which way we were going to go. The guys reflected all the values of this team, and the culture we’re creating, but most of all they embodied everything in the stadium from a supporter’s perspective.”
“We could have crumbled under the pressure of adversity. We went into extra time against Chile, which put a massive physical and mental load on the players, but we just said ‘from now on, we’re going to win this thing because we’ve made it through the hardest stuff we can go through.’ We dealt with the pressure particularly well.”
“We had two goals coming into this tournament. The first goal was to inspire. We wanted to be an inspirational team that inspired the crowd, and we want to bring that crowd to Vancouver next year. Our second goal was to win gold, and we’ve done both of those things here in Toronto.”
“The crowd was unbelievable. I would say it was better than some of the stops on the World Series. The patriotic support and vocal nature was great for our guys, and I think it spurred both of Canada’s teams on. It will be a long-time memory for me.”
Captain John Moonlight, following the Pan Am Games:
“We didn’t make any of our games easy, but we wanted to be inspirational, and I think we accomplished that. That final play of the gold medal match – that last-ditch effort by everyone – was exactly what we needed. Our team plays with a lot of heart, and we will never give up on any match. Matches like today’s shows that anything is possible in rugby sevens.”
“Playing in front of family and friends was unbelievable. The whole team would like to thank everyone for really backing us. Toronto hasn’t seen a lot of international sevens rugby before, so for people to come out and support us, and be as loud and passionate as they were, it was awesome. We loved it.”
CANADA 17-12 CHILE
When all looked certain that Canada wouldn’t have the opportunity to advance to the Pan American Games semifinals, the host nation escaped from the jaws of defeat to claim a 17-12 sudden-death extra-time victory over Chile.
Chile began the quarterfinal as the livelier of the two sides, claiming the bulk of possession in the opening frame. Capitalizing on a couple of Canadian errors, the South Americans were rewarded with a 7-0 halftime lead following a probing run from Pablo Metuaze.
Canada got their breakthrough two minutes into the second half, with Sean Duke muscling the ball over to slice their deficit to just two points. However, despite facing constant pressure from Canada, Chile shocked their hosts by scoring a try in the corner with just one minute left in regulation time, putting the South Americans ahead 12-5.
Buoyed by a thunderous home crowd after the sound of the hooter, Canada crept closer and closer to going over in the dying seconds of the match, with the prospect of drawing level looking increasingly likely after Chile received two yellow cards after regulation time had expired. Refusing to concede defeat, Nathan Hirayama found a sprinting Harry Jones, who emphatically touched down under the posts. Hirayama’s conversion knotted the score at 12-12, sending the match to sudden-death extra time.
Absorbing an early Chilean attack, Canada’s comeback was complete just one minute into the added frame, after Phil Mack found a gap in the South American nation’s defensive line. The scrumhalf raced in, sealing a memorable victory for Canada, and ensuring the host nation the opportunity to compete for a medal in the afternoon matches.
CANADA 26-19 USA
Canada earned a chance to defend their 2011 Pan Am Games gold medal after defeating North American rivals United States of America 26-19 in a thrilling semifinal matchup.
Opening the match on the front foot, Harry Jones brought the crowd to their feet less than two minutes into the fixture, diving over to give the home side a 5-0 advantage. Captain John Moonlight doubled Canada’s try tally two minutes later, crashing through two Americans to squeeze the ball over the try line. Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession throughout the opening seven minutes, Canada conceded in the dying seconds of the frame, with Carlin Isles using a burst of speed to put USA on the board.
Trailing 12-5 out of the interval, USA got another moment of magic from Isles three minutes into the frame, with the speedy wing scampering 70 metres for his second try of the match, while Canada’s Admir Cejvanovic was issued a yellow card on the play. USA were able to capitalize with the man advantage, with Martin Iosefo trotting in to give the Eagles a 17-12 lead.
Still down a man, Canada received a moment of brilliance from Nathan Hirayama, who burned down the touchline with a 50-metre run before dotting down to draw the match level at 19-19.
With no time left on the clock and the home supporters urging their men on, Cejvanovic came through in the clutch, spotting a gap in the defensive line and diving over to clinch the victory on the final play of the match.
CANADA 22-19 ARGENTINA
With the backing of 20,000 fans on the edge of their seats, Canada successfully defended their Pan Am Games title, defeating Argentina 22-19 with a last-second try to secure the gold medal.
Argentina opened the match’s scoring with an impressive chip-and-chase try from Franco Sabato, putting the South Americans ahead 5-0 just two minutes into the game. Recovering well, Canada spent the majority of the first half probing deep into Argentina end, and were unlucky when the Pumas hit for their second try late in the half, with Bautista Ezcurra scoring against the pace of play. A try in the final moments of the half from Conor Trainor ensured Canada didn’t enter the break on a scoreless note.
Riding their momentum after the interval, Trainor wasted little time notching his double, plucking the loose ball up immediately following the restart and racing 45 metres to level the score at 12-12.
Argentina responded just minutes later, with Santiago Alvarez breaking a tackle to touch down under the posts, giving the South American side a 19-12 lead. A yellow card to Argentina’s Sabato midway through the second half opened a window of opportunity for Canada, and the hosts capitalized, with Phil Mack knifing through the defensive line to touch down in the corner, cutting Canada’s deficit to two points.
Once again, Canada were faced with the spectre of defeat after the sound of the hooter, but for the second match running, the host nation found an extra gear. Throwing wave after wave of attack at Argentina’s line in a last-ditch effort, a clever chip from Nathan Hirayama was collected by Harry Jones five metres from the try line, with the Vancouver man shrugging off two tacklers to bull his way over.
Jones’ late-match heroics clinched the memorable win for Canada, marking the national side’s third consecutive comeback victory en route to receiving gold medals on home soil.
Visit http://results.toronto2015.org/IRS/en/rugby-7/schedule-and-results.htm for full Pan American Games results.
2015 Pan American Games Schedule:
Day One – July 11, 2015
Canada 45-0 Guyana – 12:17 p.m. ET / 9:17 a.m. PT
Canada 26-14 Brazil – 5:11 p.m. ET / 2:11 p.m. PT
Canada 7-21 Argentina – 7:55 p.m. ET / 4:55 p.m. PT
Day Two – July 12, 2015
Canada 17-12 Chile – 11:33 a.m ET / 8:33 a.m. PT
Canada 26-19 USA – 4:49 p.m. ET / 1:49 p.m. PT – Medal Semifinals
Canada 22-19 Argentina – 7:59 p.m. ET / 4:59 p.m. PT – Gold Medal Match
Canada’s Men’s Roster for 2015 Pan American Games:
Admir Cejvanovic – (Burnaby Lake RFC/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Justin Douglas – (Abbotsford RFC) Abbotsford, BC
Sean Duke – (UVIC Vikes/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Mike Fuailefau – (Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Lucas Hammond – (Toronto Nomads/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Nathan Hirayama – (UVIC Vikes/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Harry Jones – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) North Vancouver, BC
Phil Mack – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
John Moonlight – Captain (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Pickering, ON
Matt Mullins – (Queen’s University/Ontario Blues) Belleville, ON
Conor Trainor – (UBCOB Ravens/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Sean White – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Canada’s Men’s Team Staff for 2015 Pan American Games:
Liam Middleton – Head Coach
Lee Douglas – Assistant Coach
Brian Hunter – Manager
Calum Ramsay – National Programs Analyst
Danielle Mah – Physiotherapist
Gareth Lynch – Strength & Conditioning