March 11, 2017 Vancouver, BC (ISN) – The Canadian Mens’s Sevens team advanced to the Vancouver Sevens Cup quarterfinals against on opening day, going 2-1 in pool play beating both Scotland and Russia, before falling just short against New Zealand in front of 38, 058 cheering rugby fans at BC Place Stadium.
For the Sevens event, the sold out attendance made record-setting history as the largest attended rugby event in Canadian history, as loyal rugby fans from around the world descended on Vancouver to follow and cheer on their respective national sides.
Canada vs. Scotland (21-5)
Canadian 7’s men took an all important, successful first step with a 28-15 win over #7 Scotland. Canada would beat Scotland with three first half trys to energize a packed, partisan Canadian crowd, bringing fans to their feet with every possession.
Canada would get of to a running start in their opening match against Scotland, powered by a trio of first half trys by Justin Douglas, Adam Zaruba, and Harry Jones to jump out to a 21-5 half time lead. Nathan Hirayama would be successful from the boot going 3-3 on conversions. Dougie Fife would score Scotland’s only try of the half.
Scotland would press Canada in the second half with a try by Scott Wight before Canada’s substitution, Isaac Kaay, would break away for a try in the corner to put Canada up 28-10. Scotland’s Alastair Miller would add a “too-little, too-late” try late in the game as Canada would roll on to a 28-15 win in game one of their Pool D play.
Canada vs. Russia (26-5)
Canada appeared to be just warming up the engines after their win against Scotland. The Canucks, after a slow start that saw Russia control play much of the first five minutes to result in a 5-0 lead, as Eduard Filatov would be allowed to put the ball down for the early try. Canada’s Adam Zaruba would ignite his team with his first of three trys. A successful Hirayama convert would put his team ahead 7-5 at the half, starting a Canadian route that would see the home side put the next 26 points on the board much in part the yeoman work on the wing by Zaruba.
A minute into the second half, Isaac Kaay, substituted at kickoff for John Moonlight with an apparent injury, would score a well deserved try off of a Harry Jones hand-off for Canada to take a comfortable 12-5 lead.
A strong defensive Canadian effort, and a Russian yellow card, prevented Russia from any comeback attempt as Canada would handle the ball out of their own end and into the hands of Zaruba for his second, and hat trick third try of the game to dispatch the now 0-2 Russian team 26-5, and take an undefeated record into their final day one game against New Zealand.
Canada vs. New Zealand (14-15)
With the longest reigning Canada Sevens captain sidelined from an earlier, undisclosed injury, fans may have thought that there was need for concern playing against the number four-ranked New Zealand team. Canadian fans became the eighth man on the field, urging on their depleted Canadian squad.
Canada would bring their fans to their feet when Harry Jones would score his second try of the day two minutes into the game on an offload from teammate Zaruba. New Zealand would find their legs quickly to respond, pressing Canada back deep in their own end. Vilimoni Koroi would score his first of two tries, beating his defender from 10 meters out for the try. With a missed New Zealand conversion attempt, Canada would remain of top until All Blacks Scott Curry would add to his team’s total late in the first half to take a 10-7 lead.
New Zealand would defend Canada’s line well to eventually regain possession. With ball in hand, Koroi would score his second try, breaking though the Canadian line to put his team up 15-7 mid way through the second half. A frenetic Canadian side, matched with a stadium packed with boisterous fans, would control the ball the remaining two minutes of play, scoring their final try on the extra ordinary effort of Adam Zaruba, his fifth of the day, dragging in two New Zealand defenders on his back in extra time in a last gasp effort.
Despite the Canadian team’s day one successes, Head Coach Damian McGrath isn’t satisfied enough to let his team to be complacent with their achievement. “Three of the last four tournaments we’ve got to the quarterfinals so we’ve proved we’re a top eight team. We’re disappointed to just get to the quarterfinals now so we need to take that next step.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s match up against top-ranked South Africa McGrath would go on to add, “I wouldn’t put anything past us tomorrow. To come out and compete like we did against New Zealand with nine fit players, it tells a story about how committed the players are and as a team they want to do well.”