Hamilton 7s Review by BCRN 7s Correspondent: Plus Commentary on State of the Union
After a sub-par set of results in Sydney last weekend the Pool D assignment in New Zealand looked (on paper) fairly encouraging.
The team had been ravaged by injury in Australia and as a consequence the last remaining squad members were flown in from the home base in Langford.
Joining the team in Hamilton earlier in the week were Luke Bradley, Josiah Morra and Tevaughn Campbell.
Too many inexperienced players is always a concern on the circuit but often player’s joining the team when injures occur have been waiting impatiently for a chance to show their worth on the field so motivation to perform well is extremely high – hopefully that is the case in Hamilton.
Sadly the very talented Lucas Hammond heads home along with the powerful Phil Berna – both with game-ending injuries - and the list of walking wounded in Hamilton continued with their rehab prior to the weekend tournament.
But as the coach indicated – the morale in the squad remains sound and the preparation for the first game against the USA game continued during the week of practice.
This is the first time in the modern era that Hamilton has hosted a venue on the circuit.
After many successful years in Wellington things deteriorated significantly more recently and a change in location was badly needed. Crowd numbers had dropped off in the capital city and excessive partying by large numbers of non-rugby fans caused local officials to withdraw support and funding to the event.
Day 1 – FMG Stadium, Waikato - Hamilton, NZ
Canada started Day 1 against our old rival – the USA - and job-one was to stop the fleet-footed Perry Baker.
We started well with a good deal of possession and at 6:17 Hirayama scored. Moonlight followed that try with one of his own on a powerful drive to the try line. A bad call on Jones allowed the USA some possession despite Canada applying excellent pressure throughout the half - but as a consequence of losing possession we were quickly out rucked and allowed Perry Baker a shot at the goal-line just before the half ended.
It was a bad outcome for such a good half and it changed everything.
Suddenly we were out rucked and our tackling fell apart.
If any observer fails to recognize what our coach has devised as a game plan for his troops then watch the film with 3D glasses and pay better attention!
It’s a thoughtful plan using the talents of his individual team members - but you can’t get off-task in the application at any time and you certainly have to apply yourself in the tackling department.
Sevens rugby offers no hiding place when errors occur and often one mistake leads to another - so back-peddling and scrambling on defense invariably leads to a disastrous consequence.
But make no mistake the Americans are in the same boat – they use a powerful approach and get the ball to Baker – simple and successful - unless of course you keep the ball away from them.
Observation dictates that we must get better at the rucks as we were pushed off the ball too much and we must keep possession of our chances with the ball - and finally we simply have to tackle better and more consistently.
Kenya was another example of us getting pushed off the ball and being out-muscled at critical times – we were close but close doesn’t count at all in any way shape or form. It was another frustrating game that slipped from our grasp and we ended up on the wrong side of the score sheet. This was probably a game we should have put to bed much earlier on in the contest.
Day 1 finished against Samoa and once again we frustrated ourselves with ill-timed decisions and more poor tackling – it was hard to endure and must have frustrated the players on the pitch no end.
If there was any good news from the first day in Hamilton it was that Campbell and Bradley had decent outings with the ball in-hand – Campbell showed some pace on attack and Bradley had a good eye for running support lines.
Wales is next on Day 2.
Canada 14 v USA 28
Canada 14 v Kenya 19
Canada 14 v Samoa 22
Day 2 – FMG Stadium, Waikato - Hamilton, NZ
Anyone who doesn’t think Nathan Hirayama will be in the National Hall of Fame one day needs a reality check and probably a higher dose of their medication!
Today once again Hirayama put on a clutch performance when it really mattered the most to push Canada forward in the bottom half of the competition.
It is a part of the draw that no player ever wants to compete in but given the circumstances and devastating injures over the past two weeks it is not surprising Canada was fighting for their life.
Nevertheless Hirayama sealed Canada‘s victory over Wales as the clock moved past the 20 minute mark. It was an astonishing scene and the young man from Richmond, BC showed incredible composure and pose as he rallied his team past a resilient Welsh team.
Despite the result Canada faltered against Argentina and will leave New Zealand in the morning with just a single win in the tournament.
It hasn’t been a engaging few weeks for the national union and further news during the day that Canada lost their second game to Uruguay in South America made matters worse.
And it’s times like this when everyone looks around in utter frustration and the ‘blame game’ starts in earnest – cell phones ‘blow-up’ (as the new millennials say) and what seems clear is that we are not blowing up or dismantling the root causes of our problems – and it’s been like that for too long!
To be clear – our Sevens Coach inherited the program just over a year ago – there was a mess everywhere he looked – a player strike, lack of funds, a disgruntled membership, a team who was performing badly and most importantly no resource list – no long list of players, no short list of players, in fact no list of any kind - and it was a credit to the Yorkshire man that he took the job at all.
Now, as there was in Coach Ric Suggitt’s time, there are lists and an expanded process taking shape but it all takes time – meanwhile the HSBC Sevens circuit continues and we must compete to the best of our abilities and resources – and at times like this it is frustrating as hell to endure.
There are however pockets of successful and enlightened programs within our union – case in point is our women’s sevens program and to a lesser degree our women’s fifteens program as well.
In particular the sevens program has isolated itself from the all the union dysfunction with strong leadership, brilliant coaches and a real pathway of talent from coast to coast – there is sound organization and consequently the results to prove that they know how to sustain and develop a national team.
But not so for our men’s fifteens team who are still trying to find their feet within all this confusion - and now a world cup countdown is looming this coming November.
The union continues to put out bulletins after catastrophic results and then have meaningless ‘reviews’ which seem to over-shoot the runway every time – there are 49 staffers listed on the website in two separate offices and all that appears to happen is that they (the staff) seem to just get better at “duck and cover” when these reviews occur.
What organization with the player base Canada has entertains 49 people on the payroll?
After yesterdays result in Uruguay TV commentator Brian Spanton summarized the result with clarity and an historical overview. Further and closer to the ground a former coach observed that the team seemed to lack precision, intensity and accuracy but did note that Canada had played somewhat better in patches than they did a week ago.
It appears presently that there are too many ‘immoveable parts’ off the field that are inhibiting our performance on the field and until the brass recognise clearly that working from the board room to the playing field is the complete opposite of what needs to occur Canada will continue to flounder we suggest.
More recently growing numbers of the membership seem to indicate that maybe we should stay home from the upcoming RWC and get our house in order – for the player’s sake that would be a massive blow for all the time and energy which they have committed in our team.
Meanwhile the commentary will continue unabated and grow in intensity - are we really at a turning pointing in this union – we shall see.
And so - another week of commentary which had less to do with our Sevens men in Hamilton and more to do with the ‘state of the union’ in the end - but possibly all relevant…
Vegas and Vancouver are next and the potential to lift our spirits up in a pool with South Africa, England and Wales at Las Vegas – good luck Canada!
Canada 19 v Wales 14
Canada 12 v Argentina 14
Canada Squad - Hamilton:
Jared Douglas Abbotsford RFC Abbotsford, BC
Justin Douglas Abbotsford RFC Abbotsford, BC
Mike Fuailefau Castaway Wanderers Victoria, BC
Nathan Hirayama Unattached Richmond, BC
Harry Jones (C) Capilano RFC North Vancouver, BC
Isaac Kaay University of Victoria Kamloops, BC
Luke McCloskey Castaway Wanderers Victoria, BC
John Moonlight James Bay AA Pickering, ON
Jake Thiel Abbotsford RFC Abbotsford, BC
Tevaughn Campbell Unattached Toronto, ON
Josiah Morra Toronto Saracens Toronto, ON
Luke Bradley Port Alberni Black Sheep Port Alberni, BC