Story and Images by Erich Eichhorn (ISN)
March 13, 2016 Vancouver, BC (ISN) – The Canada Sevens men’s rugby team dropped their opening game to Wales 26-19 and then never looked back as they defeated France 19-17 to take the Bowl final of the inaugural HSBC World Vancouver Sevens rugby championships Sunday afternoon.
Team Canada poses with championship Bowl after come from behind 19-17 win over France – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
As much as the win is an accomplishment in its own, it was how the young sevens squad handled and overcame adversity in the weekend-long series in front of a home crowd to take the victory.
After dropping their first game of the series to Wales on a try with no time remaining, an a game, admittedly, Coach Liam Middleton felt they should have won, Canada proved their poise and resiliency thereafter, time and time again over the next five games, running the table and taking wins against some stiff competition including 4th ranked Australia, a team they have only beaten three times out of 42 attempts in the past.
Refusing to quit, the home side would give the crowd, reported to be in excess of 60,000 people over the 2-day event, victories in a series of last minute successes to put the team in the consolation final. Despite winning 5 of 6 games, sadly Team Canada would finish 13th overall in the world standings for their efforts, one spot lower than when they started.
Phil Mack on loads the ball to his wing for a hopeful try – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
About the team’s play, Canada’s head Coach Liam Middelton would confess that the game of Sevens rugby can be cruel.
“I can’t criticize our performances, “ said Middleton. “ We were very consistent. The Brazil game we were a little bit flatter (Sunday morning) but we’d had thrown everything into Saturday’s matches. Mentally, physically, emotionally, we threw everything into it and got a disappointment at not making the Cup (quarter finals). But you win five or six games in any World Series tournament, it’s an exceptional achievement”.
Fans wait in the tunnle for the triumphant return of their Canadian Sevens team – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
In Sunday morning play, 12th ranked Canada would dispatch Brazil (19-0) and England (17-7) in quarter and semi-final tests before taking on France in the Bowl game.
Nathan Hirayama sits in third place in the HSBC World Sevens series for oints scored in a season. Here he looks for more points – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
France would quiet Canadian fans at BC Place early as Julien Candelon would score the lone try in the first half. Canada’s world-class player Nathan Hirayama would break tackle and bolt across the try line. A successful Hirayama convert would even the score 7-7. France’s Stephen Parez would push his team ahead with a try, followed by Julien Candelon’s second try of the game to increase the lead 17-7 and mute fans cheers of “ Let’s Go Canada!” echoing from the expanse of the domed stadium. Candelon’s second try elevated him as France’s first player to score 100 trys in the World Series.
Canada’s Harry Jones hold of a French defender as he runs in near the try line – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Canada’s Harry Jones would find his way to Frances end carrying an Adam Zaruba delivered ball, and the help of 30,000 Canadian fans to cheer him along the way to cut the lead to 17-12. With just minutes remaining, Canada would have a scare put into them, as France would find themselves inches from a winning try only to have Canada’s Mike Fuailefau pull back the ball from the outstretched arm of France’s player to save the try and turnover the ball.
Mike Fuailifau ( in background ), with a nose for the ball, kick this ball out before French player can take possesion – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
As time would expire, junior French player Theo Millet, elected to play the ball instead of kicking the ball out of touch to end the game, giving the Canadian side one more attempt to gain possession of the ball from 15 meters out. France would subsequently be penalized and turn the ball over to Canada. Canada’s Captain John Moonlight would handle the ball on French contact to power it across to tie the game, leaving it to teammate Hirayama to kick the winning conversion. True to the mark, Hirayama would kick another match winner, giving the Canada the Bowl Championship and Canadian rugby fans and experience to remember.