(Photo: Canada's Magali Harvey was her side's lead scorer. Judy Teasdale photo).
Today marked the first time that the men’s and women’s Canadian 7s teams played an international tournament on home soil. The fans answered the call and were in full support of their teams, and the players answered in turn, going 6-0 collectively and outscoring opponents 302-5 during pool play of the NACRA 7s championship.
“Whenever it’s an opportunity to be part of history, it’s pretty freakin’ cool,” Canada women’s captain Jen Kish said. “It’s something that myself and the girls I’m playing with here will take with us til the day we die.”
As one might discern from the point differential, Canada was rarely challenged through pool play. But that’s not to say there wasn’t onus to perform.
“Playing here is a little more pressure but nothing really changes, except for the people who are here,” Kish said. “It’s more exciting if anything. Canada fans are able to see the Canada players play firsthand. The only pressure is that which we put on ourselves.”
Kish is easily the most experienced player on the Canada squad, especially when you consider her 15s history.
“Being the captain is a little different, but I’ve always kinda been a leader,” Kish said. “Having the title is the only thing that’s different – that and all these interviews. I just have to watch what I say.”
Joking aside, the Canadian women had the field beat on fitness, physicality and composure. Their younger players showed great poise and hinted at another level of quality, dangerous coming up through the ranks. But despite the myriad of tries, crowd-pleasing fends, turnover tackles, Canada wasn’t perfect on the day.
“We’re being really critical with our performances, even though we’re winning by quite a bit,” Kish explained. “Things that we’re doing in these games might not work against better teams. Everyday we go back to the drawing board – what didn’t work, what we need to fix – and focus on what needs to improve rather than focusing on our win.”
One thing on which the team must work on is sticking to the pattern even when alternate opportunities seem more attractive.
“We’re the fittest team here, so when the other teams get tired and gaps that normally wouldn’t be there against better teams, we have to be disciplined,” Kish said. “It’s hard not to take those gaps when they’re blatantly right in front of you. But we decided as a team that if we’re up 50-0 and we have an overlap, we should use the overlap instead of going through a gap that may or may not be there normally.”
Defense was another issue. Canada didn’t have to play much of it, but when they did, the team wasn’t as solid as hoped.
“When we did have to play defense, we broke up a bit,” Kish said. “We didn’t shut the gate, and that’s something we have to work on. I’m pretty sure we’ll see Jamaica in the final, and if they stretch us and swing the ball back, they have some fast girls who could get around us. Maybe that’s one of the downfalls of having newer players on the squad, because they’re still learning the defense. That’s one of the hardest things is 7s – not to fall in behind on defense but to close the gate.”
But Kish is still confident that the young team can adjust for tomorrow and shore up their defense.
“Working with them is fantastic,” Kish said of the youngsters. “Since they all listen, they do their job. It’s the same with the vets, too, so the fact that they haven’t played that much isn’t an issue.
“This is the fastest team that [Canada coach] John Tait has assembled,” Kish added. “Everyone’s close to the same speed, but Bianca Farrell is one of those players who, when she’s on your outside, you’re not too worried [about corner breaks].”
Canada as a whole shouldn’t be worried about tomorrow. If all goes well, then Canada should play a free, creative game, one that their fans will welcome with raucous cheers.
Tries: Karen Paquin 2, Julianne Zussman, Megan Gibbs 2, Bianca Farella 2, Britt Benn, Arielle Dubisette-Borrice, Amanda Thornborough
Conversions: Magali Harvey 6
Tries: Magali Harvey 2, Bianca Farella 2, Lisa Gauthier, Arielle Dubisette-Borrice, Britt Benn, Julianne Zussman
Conversions: Magali Harvey 5
Cayman Islands 0
Tries: Magali Harvey, Arielle Dubisette-Borrice 3, Britt Benn, Megan Gibbs, Kayla Moleschi
Conversions: Magali Harvey 4, Megan Gibbs