Dubai 7s Wrapup by BCRN 7s Correspondent: Some Frailties in Our Defensive Skills Let Us Down
Canada began their 2017-2018 HSBC Sevens season in the United Arab Emirates this past weekend.
After a fairly exhaustive preseason of training it was clear from most of the social media channels that the players indicated that they were anxious to get into the new season.
Canada had every reason to be optimistic as the tournament approached in Dubai – there were some seasoned and very experienced players in the team – Jones, Hirayama and Moonlight all had over 50 Caps each; Douglas, Fuailefau, Hammond and Pat Kay were all over 30 Caps; Cejvanovic and Mullins over the 20 Cap mark – with Braid (15), Berna (12), Kaay (10) and Underwood (8). In all - a pretty tidy group!
And while experience counts enormously on the circuit – so does the ‘blend’ of players in the team and this squad on appearance offers the coaching staff a wide and varied amount of skill and talent.
But Dubai has not been kind to Canada over the last several years and history has indicated that for whatever the reason Canada has struggled early on.
Last season we got 3 points in Dubai, another 3 points in Cape Town and 3 points in Sydney which impacted our season significantly in the final standings.
Scotland ended up 11 points clear of us in 7th place and Australia was in 6th place and 4 points clear of them. Obviously had we done better in these three tournaments then we could easily have moved up in the standings.
Should we expect to be better this season – you bet we should and while the dye is cast and set in Dubai – next week in Cape Town is another matter and we must find our feet immediately when we hit the ground of the southern-most part of the African continent.
Day 1 in Dubai - the weather forecast for the region was fairly steady with overnight temperatures between 21-22F and day time temperatures in the 28-29F range with some clouds on Saturday and Sunday. So clearly the hottest part of Day 1 would occur during the game against Uganda.
It’s sometimes difficult in review to come up with something original and in Canada’s first game of the 2017-2018 Sevens circuit that is certainly the case here.
The coach had made reference to the importance of the first game prior to the tournament (“…Our opening game against Kenya is a key one,” added McGrath) and fans of the short game will have reviewed this pool and noted that our game against Kenya was indeed a key to getting into the Cup Round on Day 2.
We got caught napping and this match slipped from our grasp badly – it was made even worse by the TV broadcaster who needed no invitation to pump up the Kenyans and at one point suggested that one of our players “pull your shorts back up” after a Kenyan slipped through a gap that we left unattended.
It’s the sort of ‘old school’ colonial-type remark that is patronizing and has no place on broadcasts that are televised across the globe.
Regardless – Canada was not at their best and paid the price.
Canada 15 v Kenya 29
One thing is certain and that is that Uganda are getting better at playing sevens rugby and this second game was an uncomfortably close contest. Justin Douglas scored as did Captain Harry Jones, Pat Kay added one more to his two from the Kenya game and John Moonlight finished off our try scoring. Nathan Hirayama added one conversion. We looked better but there is still some tightening up required.
Canada 22 v Uganda 17
The South Africans sent out early warning signals when they put 48 points on their northern neighbours and if anyone thought there was going to be an upset on Day 1 in this pool then they must not have been following the ‘form card’ too closely.
The South Africans are setting down new markers in sevens rugby and when they are playing anyone but Canada it is usually a pleasure to watch them go about their business.
One to thirteen they have so much speed and their ball movement and backing-up is at a superb level. Add to that their ability to attack space between players makes them incredibly dangerous in mid-field. Today Branco du Preez, Cecil Afrika, Kwagga Smith and Werner Kok were simply too much for Canada.
Canada 0 v South Africa 28
Any game against our neighbours to the south always seems to be significant and bring on some special motivation – and this QF game was no exception. If it had been a boxing match one might say it reminded them of Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler standing toe to toe in the centre of the ring throwing bombs at each other!
It was far from a classic but as any seasoned coach will remind us all – it’s the result in the end that counts! Plus – the Americans went through the entire Dubai event without a win so it’s always good to rub that in as well.
Douglas and Berna accounted for our points but we struggled to find any fluidity particularly in the first half. But credit the team – they came around in the second stanza to score and then in OT ran in another vital score as Braid got the break and Douglas finished things off as he is inclined to do.
Canada 10 v USA 5
The semi-final against France was somewhat different in approach as the French like to finesse their opposition given an opportunity and head-banging is strictly forbidden!
It was even on the score sheet at the half as we exchanged tries with the French - but once again some frailties in our defensive skills let us down and their opportunities were more a result of our dysfunction especially in the second half where we let them cross our try line twice in the last two minutes or so. Clearly there are some things to accomplish next week during practice in Cape Town.
Canada 21 v France 28
And so we take 5 points from Dubai and end up in 12th place in the standings as we head south into Cape Town. Hopefully next weekend things will improve for our Team – Good luck boys!
Phil Berna UBC Thunderbirds (Vancouver, BC)
Connor Braid James Bay AA (Victoria, BC)
Admir Cejvanovic Burnaby Lake RFC (Burnaby, BC)
Justin Douglas Abbotsford RFC (Abbotsford, BC)
Mike Fuailefau Castaway Wanderers (Victoria, BC)
Lucas Hammond Toronto Nomads (Toronto, ON)
Nathan Hirayama Unattached (Richmond, BC)
Harry Jones, Captain Capilano RFC (North Vancouver, BC)
Isaac Kaay University of Victoria (Kamloops, BC)
Pat Kay Castaway Wanderers (Duncan, BC)
John Moonlight James Bay AA (Pickering, ON)
Matt Mullins Queen’s University (Belleville, ON)
Liam Underwood Balmy Beach RFC (Toronto, ON)